Sri Lanka troops open fire to contain fuel riots

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COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s military opened fire to quell unrest at a fuel station on Sunday (Jun 19), officials said, as extraordinary lines for petrol and diesel formed across the bankrupt country.

Troops opened fire in Visuvamadu, 365 kilometers north of Colombo, on Saturday night when their guard post was bombarded with stones, according to army spokesman Nilantha Premaratne.

Premaratne told AFP that “a group of 20 to 30 individuals threw stones and damaged an army truck.”

The army opened fire for the first time to quell protests due to the increasing economic crisis, according to police, injuring four civilians and three troops.

When the pump ran out of gas, vehicles began to protest, which escalated into a brawl with military, according to police.

Sri Lanka is experiencing its greatest economic crisis since independence, with the country unable to import basic necessities such as food, gasoline, and medicines.

The nation’s 22 million people have been suffering from acute shortages and long lines for basic goods, while President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has resisted calls to resign over mismanagement for months.

Armed police and army have been stationed at fuel pumps in Sri Lanka.

In April, a motorist was shot dead by police in the central town of Rambukkana during a fight over the distribution of rationed petrol and diesel.

Over the weekend, police reported three separate incidents involving motorists. In one clash, at least six constables were injured, and seven motorists were apprehended.

The administration imposed a two-week shutdown of state institutions and schools in an effort to cut commuting and conserve the impoverished country’s decreasing fuel supply.

In addition, the country is experiencing record high inflation and lengthy power outages, all of which have contributed to months of protests.

The UN has warned of a potential “dire humanitarian disaster” with millions in need of aid, claiming that four out of every five people in Sri Lanka have begun skipping meals because they cannot afford to eat.

On Thursday, the World Food Programme (WFP) began giving food vouchers to approximately 2,000 pregnant women in Colombo’s “underserved” districts as part of “life-saving support.”

The World Food Programme is attempting to gather $60 million for a food aid campaign between June and December.

Sri Lanka defaulted on its US$51 billion foreign debt in April and is negotiating a bailout with the International Monetary Fund.

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