Eight Muslim ministers in Sri Lanka resigned from their posts to stand on Monday in solidarity with Industry Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, who has been accused by the Opposition of supporting Islamist militants who killed 253 people in the Easter Sunday attacks in April, Reuters reported.

The three ministers and five junior ministers stepped down from their portfolios, but not from the government or their parties, to avoid jeopardising Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s parliamentary coalition.

The Muslim leaders accused the government of failing to guarantee the security of their community, and said Muslims were increasingly being persecuted in the majority Sinhala Buddhist island nation.

Rishad Bathiudeen also resigned from the ministry on Monday, undercutting a planned no-confidence motion led by supporters of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Ten accusations were listed against the minister in the motion, including the allegation that he provided ammunition to a factory owned by one of the bombers, and pressured the Army to release suspects arrested in connection with the attacks. However, the accusers did not provide evidence against him. Bathiudeen has denied the charges.

On Friday, Opposition lawmaker and Buddhist monk Athuraliye Ratana Thero launched a hunger strike to demand the resginations of Bathiudeen, and Muslim Governors ALAM Hizbullah and Azath Salley. The governors quit after Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, another hardline Buddhist monk, also started piling pressure and threatened to start national protests if they were not sacked by noon on Monday. Some stores across the country remained shut during the day in solidarity with the monks, and public transport was halted in a few parts of the island.

The ministers who stepped down said their resignations would allow investigators to investigate the accusations against Bathiudeen without any interference.

Rauff Hakeem, who was minister of city planning, water supply and higher education, said the resginations were meant to safeguard the country’s international reputation. “Resigned from my cabinet ministerial portfolio along with my Muslim fellow parliamentarians with the paramount interest in safeguarding the international reputation of our motherland Sri Lanka,” he wrote on Twitter. “And the protection and wellbeing of all people of our country.”

Hakeem, who is the leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, urged the government to act decisively to restore and enforce law and order. He called on the government “to protect the innocent civilians from hate crimes and arson, and take step to end the culture of impunity for which this government was elected”.

Sri Lanka has been in a state of emergency since the attacks in April in which three churches and three luxury hotels were targetted. The police have arrested more than 1,000 people since then. The Islamist State group claimed responsibility for the serial blasts.