Sri Lanka’s Defense Ministry ordered security forces to shoot protesters on sight Tuesday after the country’s prime minister was ousted amid a national uprising that has left at least eight dead and hundreds injured.
Clashes started Monday after mobs supporting the government began beating peaceful protesters who camped out near Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s home demanding his ouster during the worst economic crisis in Sri Lanka’s history.
Rajapaksa finally resigned Monday after the violence spread across the country, with at least eight dead — including a ruling-party lawmaker and two police officers — and 219 people 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 his resignation, with at least 10 Molotov cocktails lobbed at it and protesters breaking through a security gate, the Telegraph said.
Hundreds of troops fired tear gas, water cannons and warning shots to finally get the recently resigned political leader and his family out to an unknown safehouse, the UK paper said.
Within hours, the rest of his cabinet had also stepped down.
But the violence only continued Tuesday in defiance of strict curfews as anti-government mobs also called for the removal of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former prime minister’s younger brother.
The defense ministry said Tuesday that thousands of troops “have been ordered to shoot on sight anyone looting public property or causing harm to life.”
Among those attacked was Colombo’s most senior policeman, 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 into the air to scare off the mob, he was rushed to the hospital and soon discharged after treatment, the outlet said.
The violence followed months of rising anger over economic turmoil in Sri Lanka that has spawned dire food shortages and rolling power cuts.
People have been forced to stand in lines for hours to buy essentials, and doctors have warned of crippling shortages of life-saving drugs in hospitals.
The prime minister’s ouster and calls for the deposing 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 battering of its tourism industry and the Russia-Ukraine conflict pushing up global oil prices.
But both he and his brother have since admitted to mistakes that exacerbated the crisis, including conceding they should have sought an International Monetary Fund bailout sooner.
With Post wires