Sri Lanka’s Defense Ministry ordered security forces to fire on protesters on Tuesday after the country’s prime minister was ousted amid a nationwide uprising that left at least eight dead and hundreds wounded.
The clashes began on Monday after pro-government mobs began beating peaceful protesters camped near the home of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa demanding his ouster during the worst economic crisis in Sri Lanka’s history.
Rajapaksa finally resigned on Monday after violence spread across the country, with at least eight dead, including a ruling party lawmaker and two policemen, 219 injured and more than 100 buildings and 60 cars burned, according to the official tally.
But the violence only escalated at Rajapaksa’s home after she resigned, with at least 10 Molotov cocktails thrown at her and protesters breaking down a security gate, the Telegraph said.
Hundreds of soldiers fired tear gas, water cannons and warning shots to finally lead the recently resigned political leader and his family to an unknown safe house, the British newspaper said.
Within hours, the rest of his cabinet had also left.
But the violence only continued on Tuesday in defiance of strict curfews as anti-government mobs also called for the ouster of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former prime minister’s younger brother.
The Defense Ministry said Tuesday that thousands of troops “have been ordered to fire on sight of anyone looting public property or causing harm to life.”
Among those attacked was Colombo’s top police officer, Senior Deputy Inspector General Deshabandu Tennakoon, after a crowd surrounded and set fire to the car he was in, Agence France-Presse said.
After Tennakoon was rescued by officers who fired shots into the air to scare the crowd, he was rushed to the hospital and soon released after treatment, the outlet said.
The violence followed months of mounting anger over economic turmoil in Sri Lanka that has led to severe food shortages and ongoing power cuts.
People have been forced to queue for hours to buy essential items, and doctors have warned of severe shortages of life-saving medicines in hospitals.
The removal of the prime minister and calls for the removal of the president mark a dramatic fall from favor of the Rajapaksas, Sri Lanka’s most powerful political dynasty for decades.
President Rajapaksa initially blamed Sri Lanka’s economic woes on global factors such as the pandemic that has hit its tourism industry and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that has pushed up global oil prices.
But both he and his brother have since admitted mistakes that exacerbated the crisis, including admitting that they should have sought a bailout from the International Monetary Fund sooner.
with post wires