Tanks roll into Madagascar's palace

Two tanks forced their way into a presidential palace in Madagascar's capital and two explosions rocked the city today soon after the armed forces publicly backed opposition leader Andry Rajoelina in his power struggle with President Marc Ravalomanana.





A few bursts of gunfire rang out in Antananarivo and soldiers were positioned around the palace, Reuters witnesses said.

Ravalomanana was not in the building. He has been sheltering in another palace about 10 kms (6 miles) from the city centre.

Rajoelina had called today for the security forces to arrest Ravalomanana, who has resisted growing pressure to resign over the crisis in the Indian Ocean island in which at least 135 people have been killed.

The president says he will only step down democratically and has offered a referendum on whether he should stay.

The army has traditionally remained neutral during periods of political volatility since independence from France in 1960.

But on Monday Colonel Andre Ndriarijaona said: "If Andry Rajoelina can resolve the problem, we are behind him."

"I would say 99 percent of the forces are behind him," he told a news conference in the capital Antananarivo, also attended by Madagascar's military police and national police.

Christine Razanamahasoa, appointed minister of justice in Rajoelina's parallel administration, earlier said she was ordering prosecutors to arrest the president.

The African Union condemned what it called an attempted coup by the opposition and urged the people of Madagascar to respect the constitution.

"The situation in Madagascar is an internal conflict. It is an attempted coup d'etat. We condemn the attempted coup d'etat," Edouard Alo-Glele, Benin's envoy to Ethiopia, said after an emergency meeting of the AU's Peace and Security Council.

Rajoelina, 34, a former disc jockey who was sacked as Antananarivo's mayor last month, says Ravalomanana is an autocrat running the island like a private company.

The president's supporters call Rajoelina a troublemaker bent on seizing power illegally.

While Rajoelina has tapped into widespread public discontent, especially with high levels of poverty, many inhabitants are fed up with the unrest.

The $390 million-a-year tourism sector is nosediving, and foreign investors in the important mining and oil exploration sectors are watching events nervously.

The United Nations has sent Tiebile Drame, Mali's former foreign minister, to mediate.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect