Opposition leader vows to continue protests
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Madagascar's opposition leader Andry Rajoelina has vowed to continue protests against President Marc Ravalomanana's regime, a day after at least 28 people were killed when police opened fire on anti-government demonstrators.
AFP - Madagascar's opposition leader Andry Rajoelina said Sunday that there would be no let-up in his anti-govenment campaign, a day after security forces opened fire at his supporters and killed 28 of them.
The sacked Antananarivo mayor blamed his rival, President Marc Ravalomanana, for the shooting on Saturday as protesters attempted to march to the president's office in the capital.
"I tell the people that their lives, their blood was lost. (But) we cannot stop. The struggle continues," said Rajoelina at a hospital in the capital where he visited the wounded.
"The people need change. What is the Ravalomanana's answer? Shots," he said, announcing that Monday will be a national day of mourning.
National police force spokesman Captain Lala Rakotonirina said 28 people were killed and 212 others wounded, mostly by gunfire, a hopsital official said.
"This is inadmissible... inconceivable that Madagascans are shooting other Madagascans," Rajoelina said.
Tension hung over the capital as residents searched for their relatives and friends in hospitals and morgues.
"I am looking for my roommate," said Franck Raharisoa, 24, a university student who was caught up in the bloodshed.
"They fired. I lied down and I lost him. I have been calling him since but only reaching his answering machine. I have looked at all the bodies in the morgue. He is not there."
In a special edition -- the Indian Ocean island has no Sunday newspapers -- The Gazette newspaper carried front-page pictures of the shooting under the banner headline "Carnage!"
It described the incident as "a bloodbath rarely seen in our country since independence."
City resident Fany said: "It is a nightmare, I still can't believe it. I never imagined that this could happen in our country."
Others blamed both Ravalomanana and his rival for the killings.
"Those who led the people towards the palace and those who fired at them are each responsible," said Patrick, who runs a city restaurant.
"I was shocked, but marching like that to the presidential palace is a bit unusual," he added, his remarks echoed by others.
Taxi driver Herve said the presidential palace is a "red zone" known by everyone.
"They had the right to defend the area. It is a palace, but firing directly at people? What happened to warning shots? Where was (the) teargas?" he said.
Sunday's revised death toll brought to 96 the number of those killed in protests that erupted January 26 when then mayor Rajoelina called for anti-government demonstrations.
The unrest has heightened a power struggle between Ravalomanana and Rajoelina, who on Saturday announced a rival "transition authority" with himself in charge.
The former DJ on January 31 proclaimed himself in charge of Madagascar's affairs, charging that the president and his government had abandoned the people.
Ravalomanana called Saturday for a return to calm.
"I call on the security forces and the population to lend a hand in re-establishing calm and order in Antananarivo and in the whole of Madagascar," he said on national television.
Prime Minister Charles Rabemananjara also announced a week-long extension of a night-time curfew already in force in the capital.
Rajoelina has echoed widespread grievances concerning shrinking civil liberties, controversial economic decisions by the president and a general slump in purchasing power.
Antananarivo trader Mamy Rakoto said: "As soon as there is bloodshed, it is victory for the opposition. It has always been that way."
At the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI said he was "very concerned" by events in Madagascar, and urged its Roman Catholics to ask God for spiritual peace, social tranquility and "civilised cohabitation."