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Sri Lanka crisis: protesters storm president’s residence

Thousands of protesters in Sri Lanka’s commercial capital Colombo broke through police barricades and stormed the president’s official residence on Saturday in one of the largest anti-government marches in the crisis-hit country this year.

Hundreds also filed into the grounds outside the colonial-era white-washed building. No security officials were in sight.

WATCH: Protesters storm presidential palace in Sri Lanka as economic crisis worsens

— BNO News (@BNONews) July 9, 2022

Police fired shots in the air but were unable to stop the angry crowd from surrounding the presidential residence, the witness said.

WATCH: Protesters storm presidential palace in Sri Lanka as economic crisis worsens

— BNO News (@BNONews) July 9, 2022

Two defence ministry sources said

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was removed from the official premises on Friday for his safety

ahead of the planned rally over the weekend.

Sri Lanka 🇱🇰 Anti Inflation, Anti Govt 💣 They've stormed the Presidential Palace 💣🔥👊

— 𝙍𝙄𝙎𝙀𝙈𝙀𝙇𝘽𝙊𝙐𝙍𝙉𝙀 (@risemelbourne) July 9, 2022

At least 21 people, including two police, were injured and hospitalised in the ongoing protests, hospital sources told Reuters.

Prime Minister calls an emergency meeting

Due to the situation, Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has summoned an emergency meeting of political party leaders, on Saturday.

The PM also requested the Speaker to summon parliament, a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

Worst economic crisis since 1948

Sri Lanka, an island of 22 million people, is struggling under a severe foreign exchange shortage that has limited essential imports of fuel, food and medicine, plunging it into the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

Take a look at the crazy lines at the gas pumps in Sri Lanka:

— Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) July 8, 2022

Many blame the country’s decline on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Largely peaceful protests since March have demanded his resignation.

Discontent has worsened in recent weeks as the cash-strapped country stopped receiving fuel shipments, forcing school closures and rationing of petrol and diesel for essential services.

Despite a severe shortage of fuel that has stalled transportation services, demonstrators packed into buses, trains and trucks from several parts of the country to reach Colombo to protest the government’s failure to protect them from economic ruin.

Inflation in Sri Lanka hit 54.6 percent in June.

Political instability could undermine Sri Lanka’s talks with the International Monetary Fund seeking a USD 3 billion bailout, a restructuring of some foreign debt and fund-raising from multilateral and bilateral sources to ease the dollar drought.

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