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Sri Lankan President flies out of country: officials

#Sri #Lankan #President #flies #country #officials

Sri Lanka’s embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flew out of the country early Wednesday bound for the neighboring Maldives, local officials said.

The 73-year-old leader, his wife and a bodyguard were among four passengers aboard a Sri Lankan military Antonov-32 aircraft that took off from Colombo’s international airport, immigration officials told AFP.

“Their passports were stamped and they boarded the Air Force special flight,” said an immigration official involved in the process. There was no immediate confirmation that Rajapaksa had reached the Maldives.

Airport officials said the plane was held on the tarmac for over an hour without being able to take off after confusion over being allowed to land in the Maldives.

“There were some anxious moments, but everything worked out fine in the end,” said an airport worker, asking not to be named.

“The plane is scheduled to land at Male International Airport.”

Many of the president’s entourage did not travel with him on the plane, he added.

They had traveled to the airport with the President on Monday to board a flight to Dubai but were turned back by a VIP service after a tense argument over having their passports stamped.

Rajapaksa had earlier promised to announce his resignation on Wednesday, saying he wanted to facilitate a “peaceful transfer of power”.

He fled his official residence in the capital on Saturday after tens of thousands of angry protesters stormed him after months of demanding his resignation amid the country’s worst economic crisis.

He wanted to travel abroad while still enjoying immunity from prosecution before resigning to avoid possible imprisonment.

His previous attempts to arrange a military flight to Sri Lanka’s closest neighbor India failed as permission for a military plane to land at a civilian airport was not granted.

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