Security forces are out in force across Sri Lanka with orders to shoot looters on sight amid continuing protests at the government’s handling of a devastating economic crisis.
Despite a nationwide curfew, there was a second night of arson attacks.
Shops near Colombo were torched, as well as a resort owned by former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s son.
The ex-PM is holed up in a naval base after resigning on Monday when fury erupted over fuel and food shortages.
At least nine people have been killed and about 200 injured in unrest since Monday.
It began when government supporters attacked protesters who are demanding that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former PM’s younger brother, should leave office.
Opposition politicians have warned the violence could have been staged to give the army a pretext to take power. Rumours of a possible coup have been fuelled by the presence of large numbers of troops with armoured vehicles on the streets.
But the military have denied any such move is planned.
“When there is a dangerous situation in the country, powers are given to the military to deal with it,” Defence Secretary Kamal Gunaratne told a news conference.
“Don’t ever think that we are trying to capture power. The military has no such intentions.”
Sri Lanka had already seen weeks of protests over its dire financial situation, which has caused the Sri Lankan rupee to plunge, provoking severe shortages of basic items such as food, fuel and medical supplies.
The worst trouble overnight was in the north of the capital, Colombo, where rival groups set fire to shops in the town of Negombo.
On Monday night, mobs burned more than 50 houses belonging to politicians, while a controversial museum dedicated to the Rajapaksa family was also razed to the ground in their traditional heartland, Hambantota, in the country’s south.
Shops, businesses and offices are shut for a third day on Wednesday under a nationwide curfew in place until Thursday morning.
A meeting between Sri Lanka’s political party leaders has been moved online over security concerns.
The streets of the capital, Colombo, bear the evidence of this week’s rioting – a heavy police presence, troops on the streets, and overturned and burnt buses after Monday’s violence.