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Police Open Fire in Southern Madagascar Amid Rioting


Police in southern Madagascar opened fire Thursday as a large group young people rioted and threatened to loot businesses.

There were conflicting reports as to deaths and injuries, but Thursday's incident followed weeks of political tension and civil strife that has killed more than 100 people in the island nation.

Thousands of opposition supporters rallied in the capital, Antananarivo, on Wednesday, defying a call from their leader Andry Rajoelina to stay home.

Representatives of Rajoelina and of Madagascar's president, Marc Ravalomanana, opened talks earlier in the week aimed at calming the unrest.

French Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet, who is trying to mediate between the factions, told reporters Thursday that a dialogue is under way. He gave few details.

Tensions between the two sides reached new heights Saturday, when security forces fired at protesters marching on the presidential palace, killing at least 28 of them.

Rajoelina accuses the president of being a dictator and has proclaimed himself Madagascar's new leader. He has announced members of a so-called transitional authority, including a partial cabinet.

The president says he remains in power.

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