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16 Mar 2009 18:13
Shooting broke out inside Madagascan President Marc Ravalomanana’s office in the capital Antananarivo moments after the army entered the compound on Monday, an AFP correspondent reported.
Soldiers entered the compound after one of them, using a loudspeaker, ordered all people still inside to leave.
Two large explosions were heard shortly before 4pm GMT and armoured vehicles smashed the compound’s main gate, as a spotlight swept the building.
Ravalomanana himself was not in the compound but holed up in the presidential palace located 12km outside the city.
Earlier on Monday opposition leader Andry Rajoelina called on the security forces to arrest the president, after claiming at the weekend that the army now answered to him.
In the early hours of Monday morning two explosions were heard near the presidential palace, but there was no indication they represented an attack by the opposition or army on Ravalomanana.
“There were two loud explosions at around 3am, but I don’t know where they came from. They were strong enough to shake the house,” said local resident Solanje Rasoamanana.
A presidential aide said the explosions, which took place about 1,6km from the palace, were an attempt to scare Ravalomanana.
“This was nothing more than an attempt to intimidate,” said a statement on Radio Mada, owned by the president.
“A vigilante group nearby saw five 4x4s leave with masked men inside.”
A political crisis since the start of 2009 has sent Madagascar’s economy into a tailspin, and caused unrest that has killed at least 135 people.—Reuters, Sapa, AFP
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