Page last updated at 18:54 GMT, Sunday, 8 February 2009

Madagascar protests 'to continue'

Andry Rajoelina at a rally in Antananarivo, 2 Feb
Andry Rajoelina has tapped into frustration with the government

A key opposition leader in Madagascar has called for more protests against the president, a day after security forces killed 28 of his supporters.

Andry Rajoelina, who was dismissed last week from his post as mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, spoke as he visited injured supporters in hospital.

He is locked in a power struggle with President Marc Ravalomanana, who he says should step down.

There have been repeated protests against the firing of the ex-mayor.

Demonstrators had been marching towards President Ravalomanana's compound on Saturday when police opened fire, killing 28 and injuring more than 200.

We cannot stop - the struggle continues
Andry Rajoelina
Former Antananarivo mayor

Earlier, during a rally attended by 20,000 people, the former mayor's supporters had declared him head of a "transition higher authority".

Mr Rajoelina, a 34-year-old former DJ, has successfully tapped into widespread frustration with the government.

"I tell the people that their lives, their blood was lost," he said on Sunday. "(But) we cannot stop. The struggle continues,"

"The people need change," he said. "What is Ravalomanana's answer? Shots."

There was an uneasy calm on the streets of the capital Sunday as heavily armed security forces patrolled, correspondents said.

Prime Minister Charles Rabemananjara announced that a night-time curfew already in force in the capital would be extended for a week, AFP news agency reported.

The sacked mayor accuses President Marc Ravalomanana of misspending public money and being a dictator.

President Ravalomanana, 59 and also a former mayor of Antananarivo, has blamed the opposition leader for the violence and called for a return to calm.

Dozens of people were killed in unrest in January after anti-government protests turned into rioting and looting.

Madagascar, the world's fourth-largest island, has become a destination for tourists as well as foreign companies, searching for oil, gold, cobalt, nickel and uranium.

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