Sri Lankan authorities yesterday deployed armored vehicles and troops on the streets of the capital, two days after clashes between protesters.
Security forces have been ordered to shoot those deemed to be participating in the violence, as sporadic acts of arson and vandalism continued, despite a strict nationwide curfew that began on Monday evening.
Armored trucks with soldiers riding atop were seen rolling into some areas of Colombo, where the government is facing its severest challenge in decades as the country plunges into economic crisis and protests.
Videos posted on social media showed lines of military trucks moving out of the capital and soldiers setting up checkpoints across the country amid fears that a political vacuum could pave the way for a military takeover.
Sri Lankan Secretary of the Ministry of Defense Kamal Gunaratne denied allegations of a military takeover at a news conference held with the head of the nation’s army and navy.
“None of our officers have a desire to take over the government. It has never happened in our country and it is not easy to do it here,” Gunaratne said.
Gunaratne said that the army would return to its barracks once the security situation normalizes.
Navy commander Nishantha Ulugetenne said that former Sri Lankan prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who stepped down this week, is being protected at the naval base in Trincomalee on the northeastern coast.
Nationwide protests have been calling for the resignations of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over a debt crisis that has nearly bankrupted the nation and left its people facing shortages of fuel, food and other essentials.
After Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned, he and his family were evacuated from his official residence through thousands of protesters trying to break into the heavily guarded, colonial-era building.
The Indian embassy denied social media speculation that “certain political persons and their families have fled to India,” and also rejected speculation that India was sending troops into Sri Lanka.
The country on Tuesday reaffirmed its support to Sri Lanka, saying India had extended support of US$3.5 billion to help it overcome the crisis, as well sent essential items such as food and medicine, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said.
On Monday, supporters gathered in the prime minister’s official residence to urge Mahinda Rajapaksa to stay in office.
After the meeting, people supporting the government beat protesters who had camped out near the prime minister’s residence and president’s office demanding their resignations.
Across the country, angry citizens responded by attacking government supporters and ruling party politicians.
Eight people, including a ruling party lawmaker and two police officers, were killed and 219 were injured in the violence, the defense ministry said.
In addition, 104 buildings and 60 vehicles were burned.
Pro-government mobs were chased, beaten and stripped.
Some who were pushed into a lake were not allowed to get out of the water for hours.
As word spread of where buses were taking the supporters, people smashed them and set them on fire.
Toppled buses were still smoking across the capital, Colombo, as protests continued.
Homes of government supporters were attacked and some businesses were set on fire.
The EU called on the authorities to initiate an investigation into the events and to hold accountable those instigating or perpetrating violence.
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