Ravalomanana ally quits over killings

ANTANANARIVO - Madagascar's defence minister quit yesterday after the security forces gunned down about 28 anti-government demonstrators at the weekend, saying her conscience could not take the latest bloodshed.

ANTANANARIVO - Madagascar's defence minister quit yesterday after the security forces gunned down about 28 anti-government demonstrators at the weekend, saying her conscience could not take the latest bloodshed.

The resignation of Cecile Manorohanta, once a close ally of President Marc Ravalomanana, intensifies a vicious power struggle on the Indian Ocean island that has killed more than 125 people over the past two weeks and devastated its economy.

"The task of the security forces is to defend the people and their well-being," Manorohanta said after commandos opened fire on an opposition rally on Saturday in the capital, Antananarivo.

"Considering certain things that are not clear and which my conscience cannot accept, I have decided to quit the government as of today."

The sacked mayor of the city, Andry Rajoelina, has led protests against Ravalomanana, whom he accuses of being a dictator. The president denies this.

Rajoelina, 34, called for a day of mourning yesterday so that his supporters could pay their respects to those killed at Saturday's protest.

Vice-Admiral Ranaivoniarivo Mamy, an ally of Ravalomanana, will replace Manorohanta. - Reuters

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