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Opposition claims one dead in protests, after radio station wrecked

Article published on the 2009-01-26 Latest update 2009-01-26 17:19 TU

Andry Rajoelina(Photo: AFP)

Andry Rajoelina
(Photo: AFP)

One opposition supporter has been shot dead in protests in Madagascar, according to the Deputy Mayor of the capital city, Antananarivo, Andriamahazo Nirhy-Lanto. Earlier thousands of opposition supporters ransacked the state radio station on Monday, during protests against President Marc Ravolomanana.

Nirhy-Lanto accused "mercenaries" of killing a protester outside a private television station.

That followed an attack on the Radio Nationale Malgache building by a crowd who looted furniture, computers and files before setting it on fire and damaging vehicles nearby.

The protesters were backing a weekend strike call by Antananarivo Mayor Andry Rajoelina, who accuses President Marc Ravalomanana of running a dictatorship.

Rajoelina has called for protests since Ravalomanana shut down his televison network Viva for broadcasting an interview with former President Didier Ratsiraka.

Rajoelina on Monday led a march on the courthouse to demand the release of a group of university students arrested on Saturday. Elsewhere his supporters erected barricades and blocked traffic in the city.

Ravalomanana returned early from a regional summit in South Africa on Sunday night and accused the mayor of calling for a revolt.

Rajoelina's nickname is TGV, after the French-built high-speed train.  Thousands have turned out for his movement's rallies;

"The mayor has been able to articulate two things which some people clearly share some sympathy with," reports correspondent Billy Head.

Interview: Correspondent Billy Head in Antananarivo

26/01/2009 by Michel Arseneault

The contentious issues are a contract with South Korean company Daewoo to farm wheat for export on a vast area of land and the purchase of a new presidential jet, which Head says is widely regarded as "a lavish gesture".