Mahinda Rajapaksa and her family are led to safety by heavily armed soldiers as anti-government protesters storm the gates.
Heavily armed troops have evacuated outgoing Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa from his official residence in Colombo after thousands of protesters broke down 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 residence, Temple Trees, 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 prime minister and his family were evacuated to a safe place by the army,” a senior security official told the AFP news agency. “At least 10 Molotov cocktails were thrown into the complex.”
The evacuation of Rajapaksa to an undisclosed location followed a day of violent protests in which five people, including a member of parliament, were killed and nearly 200 injured, and marks a sudden fall from grace for the man who has dominated Sri Lankan politics for nearly 20 years.
The security official said police kept up a barrage of tear gas and warning shots into the air to contain protesters at the 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 south of the island, razing it to the ground, police said.
Two wax statues of Rajapaksa’s parents were smashed.
The Rajapaksa clan hold power has been rocked by months of blackouts and shortages in Sri Lanka, the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.
The sudden rise in violence comes despite a curfew and state of emergency that was imposed on Friday.
The emergency order by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the younger brother of the outgoing prime minister, gives sweeping powers to the army amid strong demands for it to step down due to the country’s deepening economic crisis.
Protesters and Sri Lankan religious leaders blamed the former prime minister for instigating supporters of the family to attack unarmed protesters on Monday and fueling the violence.
Curfew after deadly riots
Sri Lankan authorities deployed thousands of troops and police on Tuesday to enforce a nationwide curfew.
Streets were quiet on Tuesday in the commercial capital of Colombo after a day of deadly unrest.
“The situation is calmer now, although there are still reports of sporadic riots,” police spokesman Nihal Thalduwa said.
No arrests have yet been made in the isolated incidents of violence, he said, adding that three of the five deaths were due to gunshot wounds.
Officials said the curfew will be lifted on Wednesday morning and government and private offices, as well as shops and schools will remain closed on Tuesday.
US Ambassador Julie Chung tweeted that Washington condemned “the violence against peaceful protesters” and called on the “Sri Lankan government to carry out a full investigation, including the arrest and prosecution of anyone inciting protesters.” the violence”.