Madagascar rivals exchange fire
At least one police officer killed in battle with dissident army unit in capital.
Last Modified: 20 May 2010 14:50 GMT
Rajoelina has lost popularity with some sectors of the military who brought him to power [AFP]

At least one police officer has been killed and five other people wounded in Madagascar after security forces exchanged gunfire with a dissident military unit in the capital.

At least 20 members of the National Gendarmes Intervention Force, an elite military unit, battled security forces on Thursday in Antananarivo, in what one police colonel called an attempted mutiny.

"One person was killed and five wounded. All of them by bullets," Colonel Richard Ravalomanana, who led a military operation against the protesting officers, told the AFP news agency.

"We are currently securing the area because there were rumours they [the mutineers] would take to the streets.

"We never meant to attack but they started opening fire on us. We only retaliated for half an hour when we decided to move towards their base," he said.

"We're moving slowly, we have to be wary of collateral damage."

Shooting broke out after hundreds of protestors converged on a barracks, complaining about abuses by the national police.

Civilians wounded

Police used stun grenades to disperse demonstrators. 

In depth

 Timeline: Madagascar crisis
 Profile: Marc Ravalomanana
 Profile: Andry Rajoelina 
 Video: Exclusive interview with Ravalomanana

Three civilians were wounded in the fighting, Claude Rakotondranja, president of the Madagascar Red Cross, said.

Madagascar has been unstable since Andry Rajoelina, the country's president, led a coup in March 2009. The former disk jockey toppled Marc Ravalomanana with the army's support.

The past year's political instability has dramatically slowed economic growth.

International mediation involving the current leadership and three former presidents has not produced results.  

Segments of the army have become increasingly disillusioned with Rajoelina's rule.

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