Sri Lankan president flees country on military aircraft: Reports

Sri Lankan president flees country on military aircraft: Reports

Gotabaya Rajapaksa headed to Maldives, according to several reports citing unnamed local officials

By Rabia Iclal Turan

ISTANBUL (AA) - Sri Lanka's embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country on a military jet early Wednesday, according to several reports citing unnamed local officials.

Rajapaksa, his wife and a bodyguard allegedly headed to the Maldives, the reports added.

Amid mass protests in the wake of a worsening economic crisis, Sri Lanka's Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said Saturday that the president would resign on July 13.

The development came after thousands of protesters stormed the presidential palace in Colombo on Saturday and also set fire to the prime minister’s home.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has also agreed to resign after the formation of an all-party government.

President Rajapaksa was evacuated from the presidential palace and his current whereabouts are unknown.

Crippled by a shortage of foreign exchange after the collapse of its tourism-dependent economy, the island nation of 22 million people has defaulted on all of its foreign debt.

It has been unable to pay for fuel and other essentials, resulting in anti-government protests. A lack of fuel to run power stations has in turn led to daily power cuts. Schools have been shut and state employees have been asked to work from home.

The government is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package.

Protesters have blamed the Rajapaksa political dynasty for the crisis, and one of Rajapaksa’s brothers, Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned as prime minister in May.

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