Sri Lanka Police in a statement says they have given shooting orders to police stations to stop violance.
Sri Lankan police have been ordered to go on the offensive and use live ammunition to prevent “anarchy”, a top official told AFP Wednesday after another night of sporadic arson attacks.
Police have also requested public support to identify those who involved in attacks.
Police say eight people have died since Monday, when frustration at a dire economic crisis erupted into violence between backers and opponents of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, injuring over 200.
Even with a curfew and thousands of security forces told to “shoot on sight” to prevent further unrest, a luxury hotel said to belong to a Rajapaksa relative was set ablaze Tuesday evening.
“It is no longer spontaneous anger, but organised violence,” the senior security official said on condition of anonymity.
“If the situation is not brought under control, there could be total anarchy.”
He said the 85,000-strong police “have been asked to adopt an offensive stance”, and have been ordered to use live ammunition against troublemakers.
As well as the hotel fire, on Tuesday evening police said they shot into the air at two locations to disperse mobs trying to torch vehicles.
They also stepped up security for several judges, saying they were targeted too.
– Gota go –
On Wednesday, protestors defied the curfew and remained camped out in front of the president’s office.
“We want the whole Rajapaksa clan out because they are so, so corrupt. They have been eating into Sri Lanka like a caterpillar eating into some fruit or leaf,” activist Kaushalya Fernando told AFP.
In a tweet, Rajapaksa on Wednesday called for “all Sri Lankans to join hands as one, to overcome the economic, social & political challenges”.
But the main opposition SJB party reiterated they will not be a part of any government with Rajapaksa still president, even after his brother Mahinda’s resignation as prime minister on Monday.
Rajapaksa’s government in 2020 restored the president’s constitutional right to appoint and fire ministers as well as judges.
“In the guise of angry mobs, violence is being incited so military rule can be established,” SJB head Sajith Premadasa tweeted.
“Rule of law should be maintained through the constitution not with GUNS. It is time to empower citizens not disempower them.”