President of Sri Lanka flees the country amid massive protests on military Jet

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Sri Lanka is an island nation off southern India: It won independence from British rule in 1948. Three ethnic groups – Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim – make up 99% of the country’s 22 million population.

One family of brothers has dominated for years: Mahinda Rajapaksa became a hero among the majority Sinhalese in 2009 when his government defeated Tamil separatist rebels after years of bitter and bloody civil war. His brother Gotabaya, who was defence secretary at the time, is the current president but says he is standing down.

Presidential powers: The president is the head of state, government and the military in Sri Lanka but shares many executive responsibilities with the prime minister, who heads up the ruling party in parliament.

Now an economic crisis has led to fury on the streets: Soaring inflation has meant some foods, medication, and fuel are in short supply, there are rolling blackouts, and ordinary people have taken to the streets in anger, with many blaming the Rajapaksa family and their government for the situation.

The BBC has confirmed that Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has fled the country following mass protests over the island’s economic crisis.

The president had been in hiding after crowds stormed his palace on Saturday.

Sources have told the BBC that his brother, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, has also left the crisis-hit country.

Protesters had demanded the president and his prime minister go or face much bigger demonstrations.

Mr Rajapaksa’s prime minister is also expected to go.

The president earlier pledged to resign on Wednesday amid mass protests over the island’s worsening economic crisis.

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

Rajapaksa said: ‘Quit now or face massive protest.

Sri Lankans blame President Rajapaksa’s administration for their worst economic crisis in decades. For months they have been struggling with daily power cuts and shortages of basics like fuel, food and medicines.

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