Madagascar quells mutiny

2012-07-22 21:57
Members of the army and police take up positions during a mutiny by troops at a military camp near Madagascar's main airport in Antananarivo. (Andreea Campeanu, AFP)

Members of the army and police take up positions during a mutiny by troops at a military camp near Madagascar's main airport in Antananarivo. (Andreea Campeanu, AFP) (Andreea Campeanu)

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Antananarivo - A group of mutinous soldiers in Madagascar took over a military camp near the Indian Ocean island's main airport early on Sunday, but were eventually driven out in an assault by government forces, the military said.

Attempts to negotiate with the mutineers had failed, and an officer sent in to start talks was shot and later died of his wounds. Several mutineers were arrested, the military said, without providing an exact number.

It was not immediately clear how many soldiers had taken part in the mutiny.

An Associated Press reporter at the site near Antananarivo's airport heard exchanges of gunfire throughout the afternoon.

Flights in and out of Antananarivo's Ivato airport were cancelled. A police official said the airport won't resume operations before Monday.

The US embassy in Madagascar advised US citizens on its website to avoid the airport area "until the situation is resolved," urging them to "check with their airlines before commencing travel to the country".

The Defence Ministry said the mutiny is led by a bodyguard of former Defence Minister Noel Rakotonandrasana, who was jailed after taking part in a 2010 mutiny.

Madagascar has been shaken by political turmoil and violence since opposition leader Andry Rajoelina ousted President Marc Ravalomanana in 2009, who now lives in exile in South Africa. Rajoelina currently leads a unity government charged with preparing for elections next year.

Ravalomanana last year was convicted in absentia of conspiracy to commit murder in a case related to the turmoil during the overthrow that forced him to leave, with a court handing him a life sentence.

Ravalomanana called the tribunal illegitimate. He has tried to return to Madagascar, but so far without success.

The East Africa island is hilly and lush with a countryside of rice paddies, renowned for its rain forests that feature a rare level of biodiversity, including endemic lemurs. The country's tourism industry, however, has been badly hit by the political turmoil, further battering a nation that still features among the world's poorest countries.

- SAPA
Read more on:    andry rajoelina  |  madagascar  |  southern africa
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