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Hours after he was named as acting president, thousands of anti-government protesters stormed into Sri Lanka Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office Wednesday.

Men and women breached military defences and entered the premier’s office to raise national flags, as Police and troops failed to hold back crowds despite firing tear gas and water cannon to prevent.

Wickremesinghe in a televised address said he had instructed security forces to restore order, but troops were seen backing down at his office leaving gates open for protesters to stroll in.

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“I have ordered military commanders and the police chief to do what is necessary to restore order,” Wickremesinghe said.

“Those who stormed into my office want to stop me from discharging my responsibilities as acting president.”

His private home was set ablaze on Saturday after protesters captured the president’s office and home on Saturday.

“We can’t tear up our constitution. We can’t allow fascists to take over.

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“We must end this fascist threat to democracy,” he said, adding that the state buildings occupied by protesters must be returned to state custody.

The protesters’ actions were a repeat of Saturday’s capture of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s home and office, which forced him to eventually flee the country earlier Wednesday.

Wickremesinghe was earlier on Wednesday appointed to be acting president as incumbent Gotabaya Rajapaksa was overseas but thousands of protesters demanded both men step down.

“Because of his absence from the country, President Rajapaksa told me that he has appointed the prime minister to act as the president in line with the constitution,” Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana said in a brief televised statement.

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Sri Lanka’s anti-government protesters had earlier broken into the main state television station Wednesday and briefly took over broadcasts, footage showed.

An unidentified man barged into the studio of Rupavahini network during a live programme and ordered that only protest-related news should be broadcast.

The transmission was cut off and replaced with a recorded programme.

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