1 dead as police open fire at Sri Lanka protest

Outrage has erupted over the death of a Sri Lankan man who was killed when police fired live bullets at protesters, also injuring 14 others.

Footage of police opening fire in the central town of Rambukkana has been widely shared on social media.

Police said they used “minimum force” to disperse protesters, but many have asked why live bullets were used.

The incident has been condemned by the United Nations (UN) representative to Sri Lanka as well as the US and European Union (EU) envoys.

It comes as the nation is grappling with its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets since Sri Lanka ran out of money for vital imports which had seen the prices of essential commodities skyrocketand caused acute shortages of fuel, medicines and electricity.

Protesters were demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as they blamed his policies for the crisis, but he was refusing to quit.

Mr Rajapaksa admitted that he had made several “mistakes” that have contributed to the situation, but his appointment of a new cabinet on Monday angered many Sri Lankans.

There were protests in a number of areas on Tuesday after Sri Lanka’s main fuel retailer put prices up by nearly 65 per cent. The prices of essential food items such as wheat flour also increased on Tuesday.

The crowds in Rambukkana had been protesting for about 15 hours demanding fuel, BBC Sinhala’s Ranga Sirilal reported.

Thousands of angry motorists and bus drivers were also burning tyres and blocking the nearby highway linking the capital, Colombo, with the city of Kandy.

At least three of the injured protesters were said to be in a critical condition. The man who died was likely to have been shot, Mihiri Priyangani, director of the Kegalle Teaching Hospital, told Reuters news agency.

“We are suspecting gunshot injuries but need a post-mortem to confirm the exact cause of death.”

“Police had to fire to control the protesters. They set fire to some tyres too, so police had to fire to disperse them,” police spokesman, Nihal Talduwa, told the BBC.

The authorities say the crowd threw stones and other objects at police, injuring a number of them but many were asking why live bullets were deemed to be an appropriate response. -BBC

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