Madagascar's defense chief asks civilians to keep off naval airbase

21:34, November 19, 2010      

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Madagascar's Defense Minister Rakotoarimasy Andre Lucien on Friday morning asked civilians living close to Ivato naval base in the Madagascan capital to stay away, days after a group of officers holed up there declared takeover of state power.

A Xinhua reporter on the ground noticed that fighter jets and other military vehicles were being assembled at the Ivato airport.

Workers at the Aerial Navigation Security Agency (ASECNA) had been ordered to leave their offices which were later shut down. Only an empty truck was visible in this military camp.

Special forces wearing blue uniforms were seen training in front of the Air Madagascar company.

A senior military officer who did not wish to be named told Xinhua that the minister made the appeal in order to avoid any civilian casualties, because security forces were planning to launch an attack against the military mutineers.

This appeal came after Wednesday's declaration by senior military officers near the Antananarivo International Airport that "all public institutions had been suspended and that the military committee which they had established was now in charge of national affairs."

The declaration by these officers created a lot of anxiety in the country because it came from people who are well known for their military accomplishments.

They include the former Highest Transitional Authority (HAT) defense minister, General Noel Rakotonandrasa, and the ex-head of the Special Intervention Forces (FIS), which had been created by HAT President Andry Rajoelina to protect his regime.

The two men headed the mutiny to bring Rajoelina to power on March 17, 2009.

A few hours after the declaration by the military officers, the transitional prime minister, general Camille Vital, announced that "measures have been put in place to counter the disgruntled group. "

The commander of the capital's regional brigade of the national gendarmerie (CIRGN), Richard Ravalomanana, wanted to negotiate with the mutineers on Wednesday and Thursday, but they refused to receive him.

Source: Xinhua


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