Sri Lankan security forces raid protest camp

STORY: Hundreds of soldiers in riot gear have torn down a protest camp in Sri Lanka's capital.

Police say nine people were arrested during the operation in the early hours of Friday (July 22).

A police spokesperson said the operation was launched to recover the presidential secretariat from the protesters as they quote "have no legal right to hold it".

The action comes just a day after Sri Lanka's new president Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in.

Many had feared there would be a crackdown as he is seen as an ally of ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The camp was set up on government grounds in April by protesters enraged with the country's economic collapse.

After day broke on Friday morning, there was a heavy security presence at the protest site with riot police manning barricades.

One protester who remained told Reuters what had happened:

"Last night we normally, we stayed there, government troops came, 2000 troops came here and they blocked all roads, put the barriers and destroyed our tent and our property and they wanted to rescue the presidential secretary's office (Presidential Secretariat) and they beat us, really badly."

Angry at the pre-dawn raids, dozens of union members took to the streets in protest on Friday.

They chanted anti-government slogans and called for the release of the detained activists.

Meanwhile, in a sign of how desperate things have become - Sri Lanka's navy on Thursday (July 21) intercepted a fishing trawler full of people trying to flee the country.

The navy said all 33 people on board had been detained on suspicion of attempting to illegally migrate.

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