A member of the Catholic church on Tuesday said dozens of men stormed overnight into the "Shrine of the Mother Most Pure" at Mattegoa, 18km east of the capital Colombo and escaped after torching the premises.

"They smashed statues, burnt Bibles and part of the building," church Director Srahi Bongso said.

The attack came three days after President Chandrika Kumaratunga vowed tough action against those responsible for a spate of attacks against Christian places of worship.

Nine days ago, there was another attack on a Catholic church in the same area.

The Roman Catholic Church has condemned the "desecrations."

Simmering tensions

Tensions have been brewing between the country's Buddhist-majority and Christian-minority over ''unethical religious conversions".

Several Buddhist monks have accused Christian priests of promoting conversions to Christianity through cash bribes.

Christians make up 7.5% of Sri Lanka's population and Buddhists account for nearly 70% of the island's 18.66 million people.