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Monday, 27 May, 2002, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Former Madagascar PM arrested
Marc Ravalomanana moving into the defence ministry
Ravalomanana's supporters now control all ministries
Military forces in Madagascar loyal to the newly appointed president have arrested a senior figure from the government of longstanding president Didier Ratsiraka after an early morning commando raid.

At least two people were killed in a gun battle which resulted in Marc Ravalomanana's forces capturing the prime minister's compound in the capital, the only civil service building which has remained out of his control.

Former Prime Minister Tantely Andrianarivo
In custody: Ex-premier Andrianarivo
President Didier Ratsiraka's prime minister, Tantely Andrianarivo, is now in custody while a decision is made on whether he should be exiled from the city or placed under house arrest.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead says the military action sends a strong signal to Mr Ravalomanana's supporters in the capital who are becoming increasingly tired of the political deadlock.

They have been suffering the effects of Mr Ratsiraka's roadblocks which have isolated the city for months forcing up food and fuel prices.

Mr Ravalomanana's defence minister promised these blockades would be lifted by Monday.

Effort to appease

The attack on the prime minister's compound is perhaps an effort to appease the people while delaying a more complex and potentially hazardous military strike, our correspondent says.

Mr Ratsiraka and his cabinet have been working from the east coast port of Tamatave for the past two months.

The military action could now put in doubt negotiations between Mr Ravalomanana and Mr Ratsiraka due to start in Senegal later this week.

Each one considers himself president following disputed elections last December.

The attack on the prime minister's office began at first light, and according to spokesmen for Mr Ravalomanana, two ministry guards were killed in an exchange of fire.

Mr Ravalomanana's Prime Minister, Jacques Sylla, has now assumed control of the complex.

Mr Ratsiraka's supporters have blockaded routes from the capital to all the main ports, destroying the economy and isolating Antananarivo from supplies of food and fuel.

An earlier deal signed in Dakar to end the dispute came to nothing but Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade is holding another meeting with the two rivals on Wednesday.


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17 May 02 | Africa
07 May 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
06 May 02 | Africa
18 Apr 02 | Africa
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