Sri Lanka troops barricade Parliament against protesters

Military troops were moving Thursday to secure Sri Lanka's parliament building against a takeover by protesters infuriated by the country's economic collapse and the embattled president's failure to resign a day after fleeing the country.

With the country sinking into political chaos, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his wife fled to the Maldives on Wednesday aboard an air force jet. He made the prime minister acting president in his absence, a move that further roiled passions among a public that blames Rajapaksa for an economic crisis that has caused severe shortages of food and fuel.

Rajapaksa had promised to resign by Wednesday night, and since Sri Lankan presidents are protected from arrest while in power it's likely he planned his departure while he still had constitutional immunity and access to a military jet. It was unclear exactly where he was in the Maldives, an archipelago of hundreds of islands dotted with luxury tourist resorts, and where he planned to travel next.

Troops in green military uniforms and camouflage vests arrived by armored personnel carriers at the parliament building, anticipating more protests after a group attempted to storm the entrance the previous day, clashing with police who fended them off with tear gas and batons.

Some protesters posted videos on social media pleading with others not to storm the Parliament, fearing an escalation of violence.

On Wednesday, protesters who were undeterred by multiple rounds of tear gas scaled the walls to enter the office of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the crowd outside cheered in support and tossed water bottles to them. Protesters took turns posing at the prime minister's desk or stood on a rooftop terrace waving the Sri Lankan flag.


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