Madagascar authorities stifle 'attack' on PM's office

Madagascan authorities on Monday said they had put down an attack on the building housing the prime minister’s offices in Antananarivo and arrested 21 people since Sunday.

“Twenty-one people, including soldiers, four of them colonels, have been arrested yesterday and today [Monday], when they intended to take Mazoharivo, the prime minister’s building,” said Alain Ramaroson, the president of the security and defence commission in the High Transition Authority (HAT) set up by Madagascan leader Andry Rajoelina.

“We must continue the arrests until the movement is decapitated,” he added.

Ramaroson claimed that “those mainly responsible” had confessed that they were financed by toppled president Marc Ravalomanana, who was ousted by Rajoelina with army support in 2009.

“There are a lot of shady areas, this is a complex affair,” said an observer who asked not to be named, adding that the attack could have been “staged”.

Only an automatic pistol has been found in the operation so far, but Ramaroson said that “enormous quantities of weapons have disappeared in Madagascar these past few months”.

The large Indian Ocean island nation has been in serious upheaval since the end of 2008, when mass street demonstrations eventually led to the ouster in March 2009 of Ravalomanana and his replacement by Rajoelina, the former mayor of the capital.

While a new mediated meeting is planned for the end of this week in South Africa between Rajoelina and Ravalomanana to try to settle the crisis, the Madagascan security forces seem divided.

At the beginning of April, the minister of the armed forces was sacked, accused of “organising meetings to find a solution to the crisis” without informing his superiors.

Several persistent rumours of coup attempts have been circulating in Antananarivo over the past fortnight.—AFP

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