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Protesters set Sri Lankan PM’s house on fire

Sri Lankan parliament elects six-time PM as President

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe attends a meeting with media representatives and civil society members at his office in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, October 30, 2019 [Eranga Jayawardena/AP Photo]

A mob stormed into Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s home in Colombo on Saturday evening and set it ablaze, police and his office said.

“Protesters have broken into the private residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and have set it on fire,” his office said in a statement.

Hours after Wickremesinghe said he would resign when a new government is formed, his office said that the protesters forced their way into his Colombo home on Saturday evening. It’s not immediately clear if he was inside at the time of the attack.

Sri Lanka has been hit by major protests on Saturday as protesters, angered by unprecedented economic crisis, stormed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s home and office, forcing him to flee.

AFP reported that hundreds of thousands of people massed on the streets around the leader’s home, according to police estimates, to demand he step down over the government’s mismanagement of the unprecedented downturn.

After storming the gates of the presidential palace, hundreds of people could be seen in live broadcasts on social media walking through its rooms, with some among the boisterous crowd jumping into the compound’s pool.

Some were seen laughing and lounging in the stately bedrooms of the residence with one pulling out what he claimed was a pair of the president’s underwear.

Not long earlier, troops guarding the residence fired in the air to hold the crowd back until Rajapaksa was safely removed.

“The president was escorted to safety,” a top defence source told AFP on condition of anonymity. “He is still the president, he is being protected by a military unit.”

The colonial-era mansion he left is one of Sri Lanka’s key symbols of state power, and officials said Rajapaksa’s departure raised questions as to whether he intended to remain in office.

“We are awaiting instructions,” a top civil servant told AFP. “We still don’t know where he is, but we know he is with the Sri Lanka navy and is safe.”

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