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US envoy to Sri Lanka expresses ‘grave concern’ over violence against protesters

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The United States’ Ambassador to Sri Lanka said she met the new president to express her “grave concern” over violence against protesters in Colombo early on Friday.

“This is not the time to crack down on citizens, but instead to look ahead at the immediate and tangible steps the Government can take to regain the trust of the people, restore stability, and rebuild the economy,” Julie Chung said in a tweet.

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Security forces raided and partially cleared a protest camp occupying government grounds in Colombo, fueling fears that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had launched a crackdown a day after being sworn in.

Media footage showed soldiers in riot gear and armed with assault rifles tearing down the camp, set up in April by protesters enraged by the country’s economic collapse and acute shortages of fuel, food and medicine.

Wickremesinghe, a six-time prime minister, was sworn in as president on Thursday after winning a parliamentary vote to succeed Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled to Singapore last week in the wake of massive public protests triggered by Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis in seven decades.

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