Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Sunday, 8 March 2009

Madagascar officers launch mutiny

File pic of soldier in Antananarivo
Madagascar is in the grip of a political power struggle

Officers in a military camp near Madagascar's capital of Antananarivo have mutinied, refusing to take any more orders from the government.

A BBC reporter in the capital says a group of officers announced they would now follow opposition leader and former city mayor Andry Rajoelina.

Antananarivo is peaceful despite the announcement, our correspondent adds.

Madagascar is in the grip of a fierce power struggle between Mr Rajoelina and President Marc Ravalomanana.

The Indian Ocean island nation has been paralysed since the start of the year by the political crisis, which has left about 100 people dead in protests.

On Sunday roads to the military camp in Soanierana district, around 6km (four miles) from the city centre, were blocked by mutinous soldiers, according to AFP news agency.

'Following our hearts'

"We no longer take orders from our hierarchy, we are following our hearts. We were trained to protect property and citizens, not to fire at people. We are with the people," an unnamed soldier told AFP.

No official comment was immediately available.

Security forces have prevented several opposition rallies from going ahead in recent days, leading to clashes in which several people died.

Mr Rajoelina said this weekend he was in hiding and his TV station is reportedly off air.

Security forces last week tried to arrest him after he walked out on direct talks with Mr Ravalomanana, accusing his rival of dismissing opposition grievances and pledging to revert to mass street action.

The opposition leader, who was sacked as the capital's mayor last month, has accused the president of being a dictator.

The 34-year-old former DJ turned politician has declared himself president and announced his own administration.

President Ravalomanana denies abusing power and says he will remain in power until the end of his mandate in 2011.

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Reuters UPDATE 2-Madagascar's army issues 72-hour crisis ultimatum - 1 hr ago
Washington PostPrism Over Paris - 7 hrs ago
New York Times Army Mutiny Heightens Madagascar Crisis - 21 hrs ago
Al Jazeera Madagascar warns mutinous troops - 22 hrs ago
Xinhua News Agency Madagascan police chief calls for unity - 23 hrs ago
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