Lanka PM Ranil Wickremesinghe’s home set afire by angry protesters | WATCH

Lanka PM Ranil Wickremesinghe’s home set afire by angry protesters | WATCH

The prime minister of Sri Lanka’s official residence has been set on fire during mass protests over the country’s severe economic crisis, just hours after he announced his resignation.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators breached police barricades to storm the presidential palace in Colombo on Saturday, with Ranil Wickremesinghe announcing he would step down as PM shortly afterwards.

Sri Lanka economic crisis LIVE updates

Unrest between demonstrators and police intensified outside the prime minister’s residence in the capital in the hours that followed. Footage also appeared to show flames and smoke emanating from the compound.

The office of Wickremesinghe told the Associated Press that the protesters forced their way into his home on Saturday evening.

It was not immediately clear whether he was inside at the time of the attack.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on the other hand, fled the palace hours before it was swarmed by protesters, who were filmed feasting in the palace’s kitchens and swimming in the pool.

Rajapaksa was taken to safety after demonstrators amassed outside the palace gates, and he is being protected by a military unit, a senior defence source told Agence France-Presse.

His whereabouts are currently unknown.

Wickremesinghe who was appointed by the president in May, to a role he has held five times previously without ever completing a full term said earlier that he would resign only when all parties agree on a new government, angering crowds near his home demanding he step down immediately.

“Today in this country we have a fuel crisis, a food shortage, we have the head of the World Food Programme coming here, and we have several matters to discuss with the IMF. Therefore, if this government leaves, there should be another government,” Wickremesinghe said.

In a dramatic resumption of anti-government protests which began in March, people from across the island nation of 22 million boarded overcrowded buses and trains to descend upon Colombo on Saturday to call on the president to quit.

Sri Lankan police had attempted to use tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds, and a curfew was imposed on Friday night, only to be withdrawn hours later. One defence official suggested the measure branded illegal by lawyers and opposition politicians had only “encouraged more people to get on the streets in defiance”.

(With agency input)

READ | Ranil Wickremesinghe’s audio message after stepping down as Sri Lanka PM

READ | What next if Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigns | EXPLAINED

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