As many as 8 people have been killed and more than 200 injured after a bloody day of violence in Sri Lanka, which saw homes of parliamentarians torched and mobs roaming across the Sinhala south.
The violence began as regime supporters gathered at Temple Trees, the official residence of the Sri Lankan prime minister, to listen to Mahinda Rajapaksa deliver an address. After he spoke, pro-government crowds attacked protestors outside the residence, before marching to Galle Face and further assaulting protestors there. As opposition leader Sajith Premadasa arrived at Galle Face, he was also attacked by mobs.
Within hours, the violence quickly spread throughout the South, with both pro and anti-government supporters clashing in several areas.
Mahinda Rajapaksa swiftly handed in his resignation as events escalated, but that did little to calm the crowds. The death toll soon began to climb.
Amarakeerthi Athikorala, a member of the government-aligned Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), was one of the first reported deaths. He had allegedly shot at anti-government protestors, and soon became besieged.
“The MP fled the scene and took refuge at a nearby building,” a police official told AFP by telephone. “Thousands surrounded the building and he then took his own life with his revolver.”
EconomyNext reports a ruling Pradeshiya Sabha (local authority) chairman is also among the dead.
By evening, anti-government mobs had predominantly taken to the streets and began attacking the homes of ruling party legislators and local government officials. More than 20 buildings have been confirmed to have been torched or stoned. The Rajapaksas' ancestral home and a memorial dedicated to the father of Mahinda and Gotabaya, were amongst those destroyed.
Read more: Homes of Rajapaksa allies set alight
Footage emerged across social media showing mobs stripping down people accused of being Rajapaksa supporters and tying them to poles, whilst others were assaulted. Reports also emerged of several anti-government mobs stopping and searching vehicles, allegedly looking for regime supporters.
“Are you Tamil?” was a question that both pro and anti-government mobs repeatedly asked.
Diplomats from around the globe began issuing statements of concern as the violence escalated.
As nightfall arrived, an angry crowd had gathered outside Temple Trees, the residence that sparked much of the day’s violence.
Protestors reportedly threw petrol bombs, whilst the security forces responded with tear gas and fired live ammunition in the air, as hostilities continued into the night.
This morning, it was reported that Mahinda Rajapaksa had been evacuated from the residence by the military and taken to the heavily occupied Tamil North-East, which continues to have a substantial military presence.