Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has fled his home as protesters surrounded and stormed his residence on Saturday, reported news agency AFP, citing a defence source and local media. At least seven people, including two policemen, were injured as the protesters and police clashed, said news agency PTI.
Thousands of protesters clashed with the police and breached barricades to storm the president’s official residence in the capital city of Colombo. Two defence ministry sources told news agency Reuters that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was removed from the official premises on Friday for his safety ahead of the planned rally over the weekend.
Protesters live-streamed the breach on Facebook. Video clips showed people shouting slogans against Rajapaksha as they marched through rooms and corridors of the palatial building. Several people walked around on the grounds outside the colonial-era building with no security officials in sight.
At least 21 people, including two police were injured and hospitalised in the ongoing protests, hospital sources told Reuters.
Video footage from local TV news NewsFirst channel showed some protesters, holding Sri Lankan flags and helmets, broke into the president’s residence, said a Reuters report.
#aragalaya protestors inside the residence of the #President. #ProtestLK #aragalaya #EconomicCrisisLK #CountryToColombo #GotaGoGama #OccupyGalleFace #GoHomeGota #occupypresidentshouse pic.twitter.com/bfTbqQ39wc
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Police fired shots in the air but were unable to stop the angry crowd from surrounding the presidential residence, Reuters said quoting a witness.
“Thousands of protesters have reached the main entrance of the President’s House in Fort after putting down layers of barricades and the police were seen withdrawing from the area. Shots were heard being fired in the air and continuous rounds of tear gas is being fired,” it said in a report.
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Protesters have been calling for the resignation of Rajapaksa since March when it emerged that Sri Lanka was experiencing a severe economic crisis. Since then the country has seen the price of fuels skyrocket as the country stopped receiving shipments. Schools were closed and petrol, diesel and cooking fuels were rationed as the situation worsened.