Military raids on protest camps in Sri Lanka and arrest of leaders | Protest news

Colombo, Sri Lanka The army in Sri Lanka took control of the presidential secretariat in the capital after the “brutal attack” on the demonstrators.

Soldiers also destroyed tents at the nearby protest site GotaGoGama, arrested several protest leaders and cordoned off the area with about 100 protesters.

The military attack came hours after protesters withdrew from the camp in front of the Temple of Ashgar, the prime minister’s official residence. The protesters had already announced their intention to withdraw from the presidential secretariat on July 22.

“Around midnight, we heard that a huge group of army was on its way towards Gota Gama and suddenly we saw them running to the headquarters of the Presidential Secretariat,” Nippon Charaka Jayasekara, a young protester trapped in Gota Gagama told Al Jazeera.

“Soon after, they cordoned off the area and brutally assaulted peaceful protesters as if we were thugs.”

He said he sustained minor injuries while trying to escape from the military campaign.

As the military offensive began, Jayasekara put it on air but later lost his smartphone in the chaos.

Some of them were severely assaulted; They were subjected to inhuman attacks as if they were heartless. We have nowhere to go now. We are locked in GotaGoGama. I don’t have anything now. Not even my phone. I am now using an old phone. He said, “I only stayed in my clothes.”

It is estimated that about 10 protesters were seriously injured after being attacked.

The attack on the protest sites came after Ranil Wickremesinghe, a six-time prime minister, was sworn in as the country’s new president. His predecessor, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fled the country after weeks of protests sparked by the country’s economic collapse and growing public anger at the Rajapaksa’s old political influence.

The Sri Lanka Bar Association said it was aware of the raids and that there had been arrests.

“The authorities must ensure the safety of all and make public their whereabouts,” the association’s president, Salia Perez, said in a statement. I tried to contact the IGP (Inspector General of Police) and also sent a message to the army chief. The unnecessary use of brute force will not help this country and its international image.”

sea ​​of ​​soldiers

Protester Anjana Bandarwata told Al Jazeera about the chaos when the armed forces pounced.

“There was no warning at all. The army came suddenly and drove us away and assaulted us and shouted in dirty language,” he said. There may be 200 protesters but the whole area looks like a sea of ​​soldiers.”

Shabeer Muhammad, a young protest leader, said he was assaulted by an Air Force officer while reporting on the raid live on social media.

“He came from behind and assaulted me on the head and threw my mobile phone away while I was doing the live broadcast. Many other people were also assaulted while they were doing the live broadcast.”

“They have closed down the GotaGoGama website and no journalist is allowed in.”

Several people broadcast the attack live on social media, but the broadcast was interrupted several times, and it is believed that the authorities stopped it.

Video footage spread on social media showed how soldiers approached the protest site and moved away from a man when he shouted “Media, media, BBC.” Then they continued to inspect the tents erected by the demonstrators.

Troops stopped Melanie Junathilaki, leader of the protest movement, as she was walking towards GotaGoGama with a friend. She told Al Jazeera that when she took some photos, a soldier grabbed her phone and deleted the photos.

When her friend became suspicious of it, the forces took him in as well.

“After announcing that the protesters were planning to hand over the presidential secretariat to the government on July 22 at 2 p.m., in the early hours of the 22nd after 1 a.m., large numbers of armed forces surrounded Gota Gaugama from all sides and began to attack,” a statement to the protest leaders said. “.

“The IT center, the disabled soldiers’ tent, the community kitchen that fed hundreds of people every day for free, the SYU tent, the hearing-impaired tent, the Gate Zero tent – these among others were completely destroyed,” she added. .

Several protest leaders, including lawyer Noan Bobag, activist Lahiro Silva, Anuranga and a disabled soldier, are among those confirmed to have been taken away by the military, according to other leaders in the movement.

Wickremesinghe is expected to appoint a new prime minister and cabinet later on Friday.

After being elected by Parliament, with the help of Rajapaksa’s supporters, he said that he would not allow any illegal activity such as occupying government buildings or attempting to overthrow the government.

“We announced publicly that we were leaving tomorrow. We decided to give Ranil Wickremesinghe a chance. They had no reason to do so except to show their strength. Their intention was to intimidate and suppress the protest movement,” protester Jayaskara told Al Jazeera.

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