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Sri Lankan Army Evacuates Ex-PM from Besieged Residence
By Staff, Agencies
Heavily armed troops evacuated outgoing Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa from his official residence after thousands of protesters breached the main gate amid the worst violence in weeks of protests over an unprecedented economic crisis.
Protesters who forced their way into the prime minister’s official Temple Trees residence in Colombo then attempted to storm the main two-story building on Tuesday where Rajapaksa was holed up with his immediate family.
“After a pre-dawn operation, the former PM and his family were evacuated to safety by the army,” a top security official told AFP news agency. “At least 10 petrol bombs were thrown into the compound.”
The embattled 76-year-old leader was forced to resign on Monday after weeks of protests over the worst economic crisis the island nation is facing since its independence in 1948.
The resignation marked a sudden fall from grace for the patriarch of the all-powerful Rajapaksa clan that has dominated Sri Lankan politics for nearly 20 years.
Rajapaksa’s evacuation to an undisclosed location followed a day of violent protests in which at least five people, including a member of parliament, were killed and nearly 200 wounded.
The security official said police kept up a barrage of tear gas and fired warning shots in the air to hold back protesters at all three entrances to the colonial-era building, a key symbol of state power.
Elsewhere, dozens of properties linked to top Rajapaksa loyalists were torched and mobs attacked the controversial Rajapaksa museum in the family’s ancestral village in the island’s south, razing it to the ground, police said.
The Rajapaksa clan’s hold on power has been shaken by months of blackouts and shortages in Sri Lanka.
The sudden surge in violence comes despite a curfew and a state of emergency that was imposed on Friday.
The emergency order from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the outgoing premier’s younger brother, gives sweeping powers to the military amid vocal demands for him to step down over the country’s deepening economic crisis.
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