Sri Lankan troops ordered to open fire on looters and vandals as protests continue

Photo Courtesy: AFP via BBC

(BBC): Sri Lankan security forces have been ordered to shoot law-breakers on sight in a bid to quell anti-government protests on the island.

Demonstrators are calling for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the island’s worst economic crisis in history.

On Monday, his brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, stepped down as prime minister amid violent street clashes.

But the resignation failed to bring calm and violence continued overnight.

On Tuesday, the government ordered troops to open fire on anyone looting public property or causing “harm to life”.

It also deployed tens of thousands of army, navy and air force personnel to patrol the streets of the capital Colombo.

Despite their presence, the city’s top police officer was assaulted on Tuesday afternoon by a mob accusing him of not doing enough to protect peaceful protesters.

At Colombo’s Galle Face Green, on the sea front, crowds also continued to gather.

Police say eight people have died and the capital’s main hospital says more than 200 people have been wounded since Monday.

Some were injured by pro-government mobs, others when police fired tear gas into crowds.

Lawyers acting for the protesters told the BBC they were filing cases against supporters of the prime minister.

An island-wide curfew has been extended to Thursday morning as authorities seek to end the violence.

Evidence of last night’s rioting is everywhere across Colombo – buses thrown into the lake, others with windows smashed out and tyres still burning.

In the north-east, protesters gathered in front of Trincomalee Naval Base after unconfirmed reports that Mahinda Rajapaksa had gone there with family members after escaping from his Colombo residence.

More than 50 houses of politicians were burned overnight, reports say. Crowds remain outside the office of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of Mahinda, calling on him to quit.