Colombo: On May 10, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence ordered the Army, the Air Force and the Navy personnel to open fire on anyone looting public property or causing harm to others amidst violent protests in the island nation over the unprecedented economic and political crisis.

The order came after mobs had gone on the rampage, attacking properties linked to the Rajapaksa family and those close to them. The attack on the properties occurred after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters in Colombo.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that no such order has been issued in writing, the Colombo Gazette news portal reported.

The Prime Minister said that the police can use their discretion and open fire if there is a need to do so but there are procedures to follow.

He said that while properties belonging to some members of Parliaments had been attacked last week, a shoot-on-sight order was not issued.

The Ministry of Defence had, however, announced last week that shoot-on-sight orders were issued to prevent further violence.

The police and military had been deployed in Colombo and other parts of the country after violence spread following an attack on peaceful protesters at Galle Face, where the Presidential Secretariat is located.

Over eight persons were killed in the unprecedented violence that erupted after supporters of the then prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked anti-government protesters here.

Over 250 people have been injured in the violence in Colombo and other parts of the country.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.

The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

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