Sri Lanka

BREAKING: Sri Lanka: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flees the country on military jet, destination Maldives

Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has fled the country, following mass protests over the island’s economic crisis.

Mr Rajapaksa left aboard a military jet, ending a familial dynasty that has ruled the country for decades. It is unclear where he is headed. However social media videos circulating showed conveys in what was seemingly the Velana International Airport, Maldives.

He had been in hiding after crowds stormed his residence on Saturday. 

His brother, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, has also left the country, sources have told the BBC.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s youngest brother was prevented from leaving the country 24 hours earlier but is now said to be heading to the US.

He, his wife and a bodyguard were among four passengers on board an Antonov-32 military aircraft which took off from the main international airport heading for the neighbouring Maldives, according to immigration sources.

“Their passports were stamped and they boarded the special air force flight,” an immigration official involved in the process told AFP.

The departure of the 73-year-old leader once known as ‘The Terminator’ had been stymied for more than 24 hours in a humiliating stand-off with immigration personnel at the airport.

He had wanted to fly to Dubai on a commercial flight, but staff at Bandaranaike International withdrew from VIP services and insisted that all passengers had to go through public counters.

The presidential party were reluctant to go through regular channels fearing public reactions, a security official said, and as a result missed four flights on Monday that could have taken them to the United Arab Emirates.

Clearance for a military flight to land in the closest neighbour India was not immediately secured, a security official said, and at one point on Tuesday the group headed to a naval base with a view to fleeing by sea.


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