Africa

Gun battles in Madagascar capital Antananarivo

Madagasca security forces on high alert in Antananarivo during a demonstration by opposition supporters, September, 2009
Image caption Madagascar security forces have been fighting against a rebel police faction

Calm has been restored after clashes in the Madagascar capital Antananarivo between rival security forces.

Madagascar's army and police exchanged gunfire with a rebel police faction.

The faction has retreated to its barracks and is trying to negotiate a way out, a military officer says.

Madagascar has been in political turmoil since opposition leader Andry Rajoelina assumed power in January 2009, with military backing.

Dissident members of the elite intervention force National Gendarmes Intervention Force (FIGN) were thought to be protesting against the country's political crisis.

Colonel Richard Ravalomanana, who was leading the military operation against the rebel faction, says there were 21 dissidents.

"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," he told the AFP news agency.

The dissidents had set up barricades around their base in Antananarivo.

Reports suggest both members of the security forces and civilians were injured in the clashes.

Mr Rajoelina has faced criticism at home and abroad for not having resolved the country's political crisis.

Earlier this month, he announced he would not run in elections planned for later this year.

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