Madagascar: Bloody police and military mutiny attracts popular support

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A gunfire battle erupted between the Forces d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (FIGN) at the Fort Duchesne military barracks and security forces, Thursday, in Antananarivo, capital of Madagascar. According to witnesses, at least two people have been killed and several persons wounded in the shooting. The day before, the FIGN had urged people hostile to Andry Rajoelina’s regime to join them.

Sporadic to regular gunfire has been reported from Fort Duchesne in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, since 10:45 (7:45 GMT). The shootout erupted Thursday between elements of the country’s elite intervention force — Forces d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (FIGN) from their base, Fort Duchesne military barracks, and security forces.

According to ousted former president Marc Ravalomanana’s support group, two men from the military have been killed. “I saw a Red Cross ambulance speed by. And according to journalists on the spot, several people have been injured”, Sylvain Ranjalahy, editor of L’Express Madagascar, said. The head of Madagascar’s Red Cross says three civilians have been wounded.

One resident of the capital indicated this morning that there had been no official call for calm on the Malagasy airwaves. According to him, only a few shops were closed. For now, besides the wounded, it is unclear whether the civilian population has been affected.

The Ecclesiastic Protestant movement, under the authority of pastors, mostly from the Reformed Church (FJKM), and part of the population this morning joined the FIGN in protest against Andry Rajoelina’s regime.

An expected attack

The FIGN had urged Malagasies to support their cause in a statement released yesterday. Elements within the FIGN, including Colonel Raymond Andrianjafy and Colonel Richard Ravalomanana, have asked for the resignation of General Bruno Razafindrakoto, a close ally of the country’s young Head of State, Andry Rajoelina.

The mutinous group argues that General Bruno Razafindrakoto failed to redistribute some 500 million Malagasy ariary allocated to their garrison by Marc Ravalomanana in 2009. They also claim that on May 5, the FIGN had called for the replacement of the transitional government by a “military committee” which would be open to all political parties. The armed forces have been on high alert since the announcement.

According to some newspapers, including l’Express de Madagascar and la Tribune de Madagascar, the attack between the two military forces was to be expected.

Already on Wednesday, at around 6:00 pm (1500 GMT), roadblocks that prevented access to the Mausoleum and the Ambaranjana district had been erected by the FIGN. Masked and armed elements had been placed at these checkpoints.

“According to our investigations, our camp will be attacked anytime soon. We prepared for it yesterday (Tuesday), and today (Wednesday) it looks like the threat has been confirmed,” Colonel Raymond Andrianjafy explained in a statement,.

According to Sylvan Ranjalahy, thousands of Malagasies, military and civilian alike, were at Fort Duchesne this morning to support the FIGN.

For now, relative calm has been restored and the mutinous officers are believed to be negotiating with senior security officers. Other sources have indicated that only said 21 police mutineers remain holed up at the Fort Duchesne barracks.

“We never meant to attack but they started opening fire on us. We only retaliated for half an hour when we decided to move towards their base,” Colonel Richard Ravalomanana told AFP.

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