Gunfire erupts at military camp in Madagascar capital

Former Madagascar leader Marc Ravalomanana checks in at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg on January 21 2012. (Reuters)

Former Madagascar leader Marc Ravalomanana checks in at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg on January 21 2012. (Reuters)

Gunfire erupted at a military camp near the airport in Madagascar's capital on Sunday, the Indian Ocean island's armed forces minister said, and a regiment commander said the incident looked somewhat like a mutiny.

"A report has already been made by the chief of staff but we do not yet know exactly what it is. We are closely monitoring the situation," Armed Forces Minister General Lucien Rakotoarimasy told Reuters.

The commander of Madagascar's First Regiment of Interventionist Forces (RFI), Colonel Sedera Raharijaona, confirmed there had been shooting, describing it as a "small problem". Asked whether this was an attempted mutiny by his soldiers, he said: "It's a bit like that."

General Richard Ravalomanana, head of the gendarmerie in the capital Antananarivo, said: "Soldiers entered the camp by force this morning at about 5am (2am GMT).
They now dominate the camp," he told Reuters.

Rakotoarimasy said the soldiers' motivations were unclear.

"We are trying to bring them back to reason."

The impoverished Indian Ocean island has been wracked by political turmoil over the last three years since the ousting of president Marc Ravalomanana, who has since lived in self-imposed exile in South Africa.

Then-opposition leader Andry Rajoelina led violent street protests against Ravalomanana and eventually seized power in March 2009 with the help of dissident army officers.

The rival leaders are scheduled to meet for reconciliation talks next week in the Seychelles.

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