Madagascar army ‘retakes’ camp after mutiny

Two killed, including alleged head of rebellion, as army takes back control of military camp from mutinous soldiers.

Madagascar map

Madagascar’s army says it is back in control of a military camp close to the airport in the capital Antananarivo after several soldiers earlier staged a mutiny.

The military said on Sunday that the group of mutinous soldiers who stormed the camp were eventually driven out in an assault by government forces. The leader of the rebellion was killed, the army said.

“The situation is under control. Corporal Koto Mainty, alias Black, has been killed,” General Raphael Ramasy, chief of staff of the defence minister, told the public television station TVM.

Mainty was the bodyguard of former defence minister Noel Rakotonandrasana. Rakotonandrasana was arrested after taking part in another mutiny back in 2010.

“The other mutineers gave themselves up or were arrested,” Ramasy said. “Four other civilians were arrested … Two mutineers and two other elements of the security forces are wounded.”

An officer sent in to begin negotiations with the soldiers was shot and later died of his wounds, the army said. Two fighters of each side also suffered injuries, according to the defence ministry.

Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Cape Town in nearby South Africa, ealier said: “We can confirm that two military personnel have been killed and two have been wounded but we don’t know which side of the fighting they were on.”

Airport remains closed

She also said eight soldiers were holed up in the camp for a while after the army re-took control on Sunday. The army was attempting to have a dialogue with them to coax them out.

The army launched its assault to wrest control of the camp after the attempt for negotiations failed.

“At 5am a group of armed soldiers forced their way into the barracks of the 1st RFI [First Regiment of Interventionist Forces] Ivato. The group fired in the air, blocking all attempts to enter into the barracks,” an army statement said.

“A wounded sergeant with the mutiny who came out of the camp indicated there was an exchange of fire inside the camp. Gunfire is heard outside the camp,” the head of the army’s communication service, Philibert Ratovonirina, said earlier on Sunday.

Soldiers and gendarmes were positioned around the camp throughout the day, an army official said. The camp is situated a few hundred metres from Antananarivo’s Ivato airport.

Flights in and out of the airport were canceled. A police official said the airport would not resume operations before Monday.

Political turmoil

“Coups are very common in Madagascar and it just shows with this latest [mutiny] that the political climate there is still very tense,” Al Jazeera’s Mutasa said.

The island has been wracked by political turmoil over the last three years since the ousting of president Marc Ravalomanana, who has since lived in self-imposed exile in South Africa.

Then-opposition leader Andry Rajoelina led violent street protests against Ravalomanana and eventually seized power in March 2009 with the help of dissident army officers.

The rival leaders are scheduled to meet for reconciliation talks next week in the Seychelles.

“We are told that there is supposed to be a meeting this coming Wednesday in the Seychelles where both men are meant to meet face to face and try to map out some way forward,” our correspondent said.

“But there are a lot of things that are still wrong in Madagascar, the political climate is still tense, and they are a long way off from any kind of concrete reconciliation,” Mutasa said.

Earlier the army said there was no risk of the incident spreading beyond the base.

Madagascar’s defence minister said most flights to the main airport have been suspended. An earlier statement from the defence ministry had said the airport remained open.

Britain’s Foreign Office said in a travel advisory that the airport had been closed. The US embassy in Madagascar said on its Twitter feed that flights in and out had been suspended.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies