Madagascan Army crushes three-day mutiny

Madagascan forces have arrested dissident soldiers who had declared a coup.

Last Updated: Nov 21, 2010, 09:31 AM IST

Antananarivo: Madagascan forces put down a three-day mutiny on Saturday when they stormed an Army base and arrested dissident soldiers who had declared a coup on the troubled Indian Ocean island.

Gunshots and explosions rang out as around 400 armed soldiers launched the assault on the Army barracks where the 20 or so renegades were holed up.

The dissident soldiers announced on Wednesday that all government institutions were suspended and that a military council had taken charge.

But by Saturday afternoon hundreds of troops had descended on the camp.

"Loyal forces are storming into the camp to neutralise the mutineers," an officer at the scene said. "The officers (mutineers) have given themselves up. It is some junior soldiers who are firing back."

Shortly afterwards, the head of the country`s senate defence council declared the operation at the camp about 15 kilometres from the capital Antananarivo a success.

"The operation is over. They gave themselves up. It has ended without bloodshed," said Alain Ramaroson.

"We took the necessary measures. Their conditions were unacceptable. They wanted the dissolution of the transitional" authority, he said.

Prime Minister Camille Vital confirmed that the mutiny was over, and no lives had been lost in the military operation.

"We couldn`t not act when faced with this serious situation affecting the security of the state," said Vital in a statement.

"At the same time, these lost officers are our compatriots. As such we looked at all ways to avoid an armed confrontation," he said.

"The path chosen has paid off because this crisis ended with the surrender of the mutineers without bloodshed or loss of life," he said.

General Noel Rakotonandrasana, the leader of the rebel officers, had maintained earlier Saturday that they would not relent in their pursuit and vowed not to give in to the authorities.

The Madagascan regime, itself in power following a March 2009 coup, had launched talks with the mutineers on Thursday and Army Chief Andre Ndriarijaona called for calm.

The coup attempt however failed to attract a wider backing by the rest of the Army and business in Antananarivo went on uninterrupted.

Madagascar has been mired in a political crisis since last year`s coup when then opposition leader Andry Rajoelina toppled president Marc Ravalomanana with the Army`s support.

PTI