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Army Occupies Madagascar Presidential Palace

  • VOA News

Soldiers in Madagascar's capital took over a presidential palace late Monday, soon after opposition leader Andry Rajoelina called for the arrest of President Marc Ravalomanana.

Mr. Ravalomanana was not in the palace when soldiers stormed it Monday evening and ordered everyone inside to leave.

The president has been sheltering at another palace elsewhere in the capital, Antananarivo. The Associated Press says soldiers at that location have told the president's supporters to take down barriers. However, the AP says it is not clear whether soldiers intend to move in.

Meanwhile, the French News Agency quotes a top security official who says several members of Mr. Ravalomanana's 500-member presidential guard have defected.

Earlier Monday, Rajoelina called for security forces to arrest Mr. Ravalomanana on charges of high treason.

Rajoelina accuses the president of turning into a dictator and has called repeatedly for him to resign.

The president has rejected those demands.

On Monday, President Ravalomanana offered to hold a referendum to determine who will lead the Indian Ocean island. Rajoelina quickly rejected that offer.

The Peace Corps has announced it has temporarily suspended its program in Madagascar and is in the process of evacuating its volunteers. The organization cites ongoing security concerns.

The African Union said Monday that the opposition's efforts to remove the president amount to an attempted coup d'etat.

Benin's AU envoy, Edouard Alo-Glele, told reporters that the African body condemns the actions and elements that are threatening Madagascar's constitution.

Rajoelina has led weeks of protests against the president in the capital. More than 100 people have died in the demonstrations, many at the hands of government security forces.

Rajoelina has proclaimed himself the island's leader and says he is in control of the armed forces.

Last week, he named Monja Roindefo as the new prime minister in his parallel government and promised to hold new elections within two years.

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