Demonstrators and government supporters clash outside the residence of Sri Lanka's Prime Minister
Sri Lanka was placed under curfew as loyalists of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and anti-government protesters clashed today. A ruling party MP died and many were injured. Mr Rajapaksa has resigned, leading to the collapse of the government.
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The hugest clashes since the economic crisis hit the island nation, started this morning when supporters of the Rajapaksa family went on the rampage. The loyalists attacked unarmed protesters camping outside the President's office in downtown Colombo since April 9.
By evening, the protesters hit back, setting fire to buses, destroying the memorial built for the parents of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa and setting ablaze their family home in Hambantota, around 250 km from Colombo. The houses of three former ministers and two MPs were also torched.
MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala opened fire and critically wounded two people blocking his car in Nittambuwa, and was later found dead after trying to take refuge in a nearby building, officers said.
The police fired tear gas shells and water cannon and declared an immediate curfew in Colombo, which was later widened to span the country of 22 million people. At least 100 injured people have been hospitalised.
President Rajapaksa said the curfew will be in place till 7 am on Tuesday.
In a first, the riot squad was called in to reinforce the police. Earlier, soldiers were pressed into service to protect deliveries of fuel and other essentials but never to prevent clashes.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, 76, had sent his letter of resignation to his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, clearing the way for a "new unity government". At least two cabinet ministers have also stepped down.
"I am resigning with immediate effect so that you will be able to appoint an all-party government to guide the country out of the current economic crisis," the Prime Minister said in the letter, reported news agency AFP.
The cabinet now stands dissolved. The largest opposition party has refused to join any government headed by a member of the Rajapaksa clan.
Sri Lanka has suffered months of blackouts and dire shortages of food, fuel and medicines in its worst economic crisis since independence, sparking weeks of overwhelmingly peaceful anti-government demonstrations.