Army puts down police mutiny in Madagascar capital, leaving 3 dead

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) — Soldiers in Madagascar stormed a national police barracks to put down what the prime minister called a rebellion in clashes that left three dead Thursday.

Military officials said a loyal police officer, another who had joined the mutiny, and one civilian were killed. The officials did not say how many people were arrested after a day of fighting, but Police Col. Richard Ravalomanana had said earlier that 21 police mutineers were involved.

Prime Minister Camille Vital, who also is defense minister, said in a statement only that some mutinous members of the police force had been caught and others had escaped. "Politicians encouraged these police officers to rebel," he said, without elaborating.

The fighting broke out after hundreds of demonstrators tried to converge on the police barracks to protest alleged abuses by the national police in Madagascar, an impoverished country that lies off the southeastern coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean.

The police used heavy vehicles to block roads outside their barracks. After a day in which gunfire and explosions broke out intermittently, soldiers stormed the barracks where the mutinous police officers had holed up.

Madagascar has been tense since Andry Rajoelina, a former disc jockey and mayor of the capital, ousted elected President Marc Ravalomanana in March 2009 with the military's backing after a campaign of street protests.

Rajoelina has resisted international mediation efforts, and the military has shown signs of cooling toward him in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, Rajoelina promised in a nationally televised address that he would not run in presidential elections he has set for November. The pledge may have been an attempt to reassure critics he is committed to democracy, but it did not address international calls for a power-sharing government to oversee elections.

Rajoelina has scheduled talks to draft a proposed constitution by month's end, followed by a constitutional referendum Aug. 12, a parliamentary election Sept. 30 and presidential ballot Nov. 26.