Sri Lanka’s outgoing Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was rescued in a pre-dawn military operation Tuesday, hours after his resignation, as violent clashes between pro and anti-government protesters left several dead and 217 injured.
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The military were called to the Prime Minister’s ‘Temple Trees’ compound after protesters tried to breach his private residence twice overnight, a senior security source told CNN.
The attackers managed to “enter the outer perimeter” of the residence where they hurled petrol bombs, but their attempts to enter the building were thwarted when the military fired tear gas, according to the source.
One police officer involved in the clashes died at the scene when a tear gas gun exploded, the security official said, confirming that Prime Minister Rajapaksa and his family have since been taken to an undisclosed location.
The scenes followed an evening of violent clashes across Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo on Monday, during which at least seven people died according to police, although it is unclear if all of the deaths were directly related to the protests.
Some 217 people were also injured as a result of the clashes, local health authorities reported.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa quit on Monday evening shortly after a nationwide curfew was imposed.
The curfew came after live television showed footage of government supporters, armed with sticks, beating protesters at several locations across the capital, including at Galle Face Green park, and tearing down and burning their tents.
Dozens of homes were torched across the country amid the violence, according to witnesses CNN spoke to.
The park has become a focal point for protesters who have been demonstrating for weeks against the government’s alleged mishandling of an economic crisis that has caused prices of everyday goods to soar and widespread electricity shortages.
Source: CNN Headline photo: Government supporters and police confront each other outside the President’s office in the Sri Lankan capital.