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Antananarivo almost a ghost town after protests

Antananarivo's streets are close to deserted after residents of the capital heed their mayor's call to turn it into a ghost town following anti-government protests which claimed at least 68 lives. Some, however, chose to ignore the mayor's appeal.

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AFP- The Madagascan capital was deserted Thursday as residents heeded a call by the city's mayor to turn it into a ghost town after anti-government protests that have killed at least 68 people.

Shops and businesses were shut, schools remained closed and the weekly Thursday market was deserted with only small stalls in local neighbourhoods open, an AFP correspondent reported.

Public transport was, however, operating and cars passed intermittently on the practically deserted streets.

Antananarivo Mayor Andry Rajoelina on Wednesday urged residents to stay at home as he issued an ultimatum to the government to punish those behind the killing of a protestor on Monday.

Rajoelina, a vocal government critic, called for a general strike against President Marc Ravalomanana's regime which he has labelled a dictatorship.  The demonstrations turned nasty Monday as protestors looted shops, set fire to the state radio building, and ransacked Ravalomanana's private TV station.

The protests have posed the biggest political threat yet to Ravalomanana who won a second term of office in 2006.

Rajoelina has been at odds with the government since his December 2007 election. The tense relations worsened last month when the government shut his television station after airing an interview with former president Didier Ratsiraka.

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