Heavily armed troops have evacuated outgoing Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa from his official residence in Colombo after thousands of protesters breached the main gate in 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 then attempted to storm the main two-storey 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.
A property belonging to a government minister is consumed by flames in Sri Lanka
Anti-government demonstrators set dozens of properties linked to government ministers and the Rajapaksas on fire after ruling party supporters stormed a peaceful protest camp in the centre of Colombo [Stringer/Reuters]
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.
Two wax statues of the Rajapaksa parents were flattened.
The Rajapaksa clan’s hold on power has been shaken by months of blackouts and shortages in Sri Lanka.