Madagascar Troops Mutiny near Main Airport
[An Nahar] Troops staged a mutiny near Madagascar's main airport on Sunday, forcing the suspension of all flights, but the situation is now under control, the defense minister said.
Gunfire erupted at a military base near Antananarivo international airport at 6:00 am (03:00 GMT) and abated after four hours but then resumed intermittently, scaring off dozens of curious spectators, an Agence La Belle France Presse journalist said.
"This morning there was indeed a mutiny led by certain elements. The chief of staff has things in hand," Defense Minister Andre Lucien Rakotoarimasy told AFP.
"It's going on, we don't know anything about their demands for the moment," he added, refusing to specify the number of mutineers.
The leader of the renegade troops was identified as Koto Mainty, or the "Black Corporal", a former member of the mutinous regiment said, adding that several young recruits had joined him.
The mutiny comes ahead of a meeting of the Indian ocean island nation's rival leaders to try to resolve a political crisis that has dragged on since an army-backed coup in 2009 which toppled president Marc Ravalomanana.
Strongman Andry Rajoelina and the ousted leader, who is living in exile in South Africa, signed a roadmap in September 2011 meant to guide Madagascar to new elections, but the deal still has not been fully implemented.
A diplomatic source suggested that Sunday's mutiny was aimed at disrupting the meeting between Rajoelina and Ravalomanana to be held in the Seychelles on Wednesday.
In 2010, Ravalomanana was sentenced in absentia for the murders of around 30 demonstrators killed by his presidential guard in 2009 in protests that led to his overthrow.
Ravalomanana was served with a summons last week over a $23 million lawsuit filed by victims of the February 2009 unrest that led to his overthrow and is expected to appear in a South African court on August 1.
Ravalomanana has twice tried to return to Madagascar, but officials there have both times prevented him and his wife from entering the country.
The 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) has already given the rival leaders a July 31 deadline to reach an agreement.
Posted by: Fred