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Page last updated at 22:07 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 23:07 UK

Madagascar protests turn deadly

Riot police in Antananarivo, Madagascar (28 March 2009)
Protests have been continuing for several weeks in Madagascar

A demonstration in Madagascar against the closure of two radio stations has led to fatal clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters.

Police and soldiers opened fire on the protesters, who had blocked roads and refused to disperse.

Two people died and 13 were wounded as clashes continued into the night, but it was not clear whether the deaths were caused by the gunfire.

Protest leaders have called for another demonstration on Tuesday.

The protesters support the exiled president, Marc Ravalomanana, who was forced from power in March by his rival, Andry Rajoelina.

'Only way'

Monday's violence broke out as crowds marched towards a courthouse in the centre of the capital, Antananarivo, protesting at the shutting down of Radio Mada and Radio Fahazavana.

Security forces used tear gas to break up the crowds, then opened fire.

Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana gives a speech in Antananarivo on 15 March 2009
Mr Ravalomanana said he would return within weeks

The BBC's Jonny Hogg in the city saw at least one person shot in the back at close range, and said cars were set on fire close to government buildings.

The full casualty figures were expected to rise, our correspondent added.

Mr Ravalomanana resigned in March during a coup headed by opposition leader Mr Rajoelina.

Mr Rajoelina has said he intends to hold presidential elections in October 2010 and has issued a warrant for Mr Ravalomanana's arrest.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Ravalomanana said he was not afraid of being arrested and was planning to return to Madagascar in the next few weeks.

The former president told a news conference in Johannesburg that having early elections or a referendum before the end of the year was "the only way out of the crisis".

The international community has condemned Mr Rajoelina's action as a coup.

Madagascar has been suspended from the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

Mr Ravalomanana said he trusted Sadc and the AU would help him return.



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