ANTANANARIVO, Madagasca – Security forces in Madagascar announced Thursday they thwarted an attack against the wife of the country’s military-backed president – the same day that 36 people were injured in anti-government protests.
Supporters of ousted president Marc Ravalomanana – who still enjoys international diplomatic recognition as the Indian Ocean island’s leader – clashed with police and went on the rampage through the capital.
Security forces dispelled the demonstrators with tear gas and live ammunition. Five of the injured were police, according to hospital and security officials.
Security Minister Organes Rakotomihanantarizaka claimed on state television that a member of Ravalomanana’s former national guard tried to assassinate President Andry Rajeolina’s wife at the airport as she prepared to catch a flight to France. He gave no further details and said the would-be attacker had escaped.
He also said 28 protesters had been arrested during the demonstrations, including two former lawmakers.
A shaky calm returned to the streets of Antananarivo as night fell. Earlier, an AP reporter saw roaming gangs erecting barricades and burning cars, with the worst unrest concentrated near a downtown square that has become the focal point for protests.
Rajeolina on Tuesday had banned anti-government demonstrations following violent clashes Monday that killed a policeman.
Ravalomanana was toppled by the military in March after months of street protests. He insists he is still president, and told reporters in South Africa that he would return home soon.
African and Western nations have called the takeover a coup. The African Union suspended Madagascar’s membership and the U.S. cut off all non-humanitarian aid.
Rajeolina issued an arrest warrant last week for Ravalomanana, accusing him of misusing government funds. Ravalomanana has denied the charges.
Infighting has long been a hallmark of politics in Madagascar, an impoverished nation famous for its rare wildlife and ecotourism and the inspiration for two animated films of the same name.
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