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Burned bodies found in Madagascar

Inside the looted shop in Antananarivo

More than 20 charred bodies have been found in a looted shop in Madagascar's capital Antananarivo, following violent anti-government protests, reports say.

The bodies are thought to be looters trapped in the burning shop when the roof fell in. There is no confirmation.

Police have shot in the air in an attempt to disperse angry crowds and looters in the city.

It was the fourth day of unrest amid a growing political confrontation between the city's mayor and the president.

'Macabre' scene

Firefighters said they discovered more than 20 bodies in the looted shop in the centre of the capital on Tuesday.

Fires burning in Antananarivo
State TV headquarters was set on fire on Monday

"I can confirm we have found 25 bodies. They are burnt beyond recognition and will be hard to identify," a senior fire official told Reuters.

A correspondent working for France 24 TV station in Antananarivo described the scene as "macabre".

Meanwhile, both the opposition Mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, and President Marc Ravalomanana appealed for calm.

But the mayor imposed conditions on entering into talks with the president. He wants those responsible for shooting two protesters earlier this week brought to justice.

Mr Rajoelina's TV network Viva was closed last month, after broadcasting an interview with Mr Ravalomanana's foe, former President Didier Ratsiraka.

This led to the protests on Saturday, which turned violent on Monday when, the Malagasy Red Cross told the BBC, two people were killed and 17 others were wounded.

The BBC's Christina Corbett in the capital, Antananarivo, says the protests have left people afraid of a return to the kind of political deadlock that followed Mr Ravalomanana's election in 2001.

Debris

Our correspondent says despite the presence of large numbers of police firing rounds into the air on Tuesday, many food and electrical shop have been broken into and fires are burning near the city's central market area.

Looted shop
Many shops have been looted

Smoke has continued to rise from buildings and warehouses attacked on Monday, and the debris left by looters fills the streets, she says.

Mr Rajoelina is refusing to meet the president until those who shot the protesters are arrested.

He has also called for a transitional government to be established.

President Ravalomanana has called for talks with Mr Rajoelina, who is the 34-year-old mayor of Antananarivo.

"I call on people to calm down. We need to put aside our pride, our egos. We need to talk," the president said on private Radio Antsiva, according to AFP.

The opposition called the protests after its TV and radio stations were shut down and tens of thousands of people gathered to hear a speech by Mr Rajoelina on Monday.

The state-owned TV and radio stations were then attacked and shops belonging to President Ravalomanana looted.

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