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Madagascar army mutineers take over military base

Madagascar army mutineers take over military base

A group of mutinous soldiers in Madagascar took over a military camp near the Indian Ocean island's main airport on Sunday and shot an army officer sent in to negotiate their surrender, the Defense Ministry said.
Government soldiers surrounded the base and launched an attack on the mutineers by Sunday afternoon after attempts to negotiate failed, the military said. It was not immediately clear how many mutinous soldiers were holed up inside the base.
An Associated Press reporter at the site near Antananarivo's airport heard exchanges of gunfire.
The officer shot by the mutineers was apparently seriously injured, and military officials were not immediately able to say whether he was still alive. Another soldier was also wounded, the ministry said.
Flights in and out of Antananarivo's Ivato airport were canceled.
The U.S. embassy in Madagascar advised U.S. citizens on its website to avoid the airport area "until the situation is resolved," urging them to "check with their airlines before commencing travel to the country."
The Defense Ministry said the mutiny is led by a bodyguard of former Defense Minister Noel Rakotonandrasana, who was jailed after taking part in a 2010 mutiny.
Madagascar has been shaken by political turmoil and violence since opposition leader Andry Rajoelina ousted President Marc Ravalomanana in 2009, who now lives in exile in South Africa. Rajoelina currently leads a unity government charged with preparing for elections next year.
Ravalomanana last year was convicted in absentia of conspiracy to commit murder in a case related to the turmoil during the overthrow that forced him to leave, with a court handing him alife sentence. Ravalomanana called the tribunal illegitimate. He has tried to return to Madagascar, but so far without success.
The East Africa island is hilly and lush with a countryside of rice paddies, renowned for its rain forests that feature a rare level of biodiversity, including endemic lemurs. The country's tourism industry, however, has been badly hit by the political turmoil, further battering a nation that still features among the world's poorest countries.