Armored vehicles patrol curfewed Colombo streets

STORY: Rajapaksa, who fled to the Maldives on Wednesday (July 13) to escape a popular uprising over his family's role in a crippling economic crisis, was on his way to Singapore, according to a Sri Lankan government source.

His decision on Wednesday to make his ally Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe the acting president triggered more protests, with demonstrators storming parliament and the premier's office demanding that he quit too.

Protests against the economic crisis have simmered for months and came to a head last weekend when hundreds of thousands of people took over government buildings in Colombo, blaming the powerful Rajapaksa family and allies for runaway inflation, shortages of basic goods and corruption.

The usual protest sites, however, were calm and organizers started handing the residences back to the government.

The government has imposed a curfew in Colombo from noon (0630 GMT) on Thursday to early morning on Friday in a bid to prevent further unrest. Armored vehicles with soldiers atop were patrolling the city's streets.

The military said troops were empowered to use force to protect people and public property.