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Sri Lanka police shoot protester dead, wound 12 others

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Colombo, Apr 19: The Sri Lankan Police on Tuesday fired at protesters, killing one and injuring several people. This is the first time since anti-government protests over an economic crisis started police have resorted to firing.

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"Police used live ammunition against a group who were blocking a highway in Rambukkana to protest acute oil shortages and high prices," AFP report said.

The residents were protesting the latest fuel price hike when they clashed with the police. Police said the protesters had blocked the railway track at Rambukkana and started pelting stones at them.

Police Spokesperson Nihal Thalduwa said in order to control the situation police opened fire and several people were injured. At least 12 people were admitted to the Kegalle hospital, four of them were critical, police said.

Thalduwa said that the police had opened fire after initially using tear gas to disperse the crowd and bring the situation under control. One person was killed and 12 others injured in the firing, police said.

The injured were admitted to Kegalle hospital. Four of them are in critical condition, police said. Sri Lanka is witnessing large-scale protests against the government's handling of the debt-ridden economy - the worst-ever economic crisis in the country's history.

Sri Lanka is grappling with unprecedented economic turmoil since 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.

Protests demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his Sri Lanka Podujana (Peramuna)-led government have intensified as shortages continued and prices soared.

Meanwhile, Minister of Transport Dilum Amunugama said public bus fares have been hiked by 35 per cent. The minimum bus fare has been raised to Rs 27 from Rs 20. The high fuel cost has also caused a hike in bread prices. The 450 gm loaf has been raised by Rs 30, a bakery association statement read. The stock exchange has also been suspended for a week with effect from Monday amidst the economic turmoil.

President Gotabaya has defended his government's actions, saying the foreign exchange crisis was not his making and the economic downturn was largely pandemic driven by the island nation's tourism revenue and inward remittances waning.

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