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Mutinous Troops in Madagascar Say They Control Army Tanks

In Madagascar, mutinous troops say they control the army's tanks but deny they are planning to attack the presidential palace. The latest development comes amid weeks of unrest.

A spokesmen for the mutinous troops, Col. Noel Rakotonandrasana, Friday said his group had deployed the tanks at a barracks in Antananarivo.

But local reporter Mialy Randriamampianina said that no tanks were visible in the capital.

"It is said that there are some tanks here in the town of Antananarivo right now," he noted. "We haven't really seen it in the streets. We don't know exactly where they are but this morning the army said those tanks are in the town in order to protect the civilian population."

She said the report caused concern among officials in the government of President Marc Ravalomanana. He went on national television Thursday night to appeal for the armed forces to remain neutral in his standoff with former Mayor Andry Rajoelina.

The defense minister Vice-Admiral Mamy Ranaivoniarivo resigned earlier this week but state radio Thursday said he had resumed his post.

Weeks of demonstrations and confrontations that have killed more than 100 people have polarized the nation and caused divisions with the military.

The mutineers last week said they would no longer observe orders to kill their own people and suggested it was time for the president to step down.

The confrontation began in January after the government closed a radio station owned by Rajoelina. This followed a rally during which the former mayor accused the president of corruption and authoritarianism.

Rajeolina subsequently announced his cabinet and said he was taking over the government. The president responded by dismissing him as mayor and sent troops to surround his residence.

Church leaders, the United Nations and the African Union have tried to mediate. But the negotiations stalled after Rajoelina walked out accusing the president of going back on promises made.

The unrest has hurt Madagascar's tourism industry and foreign investment. The US embassy has urged its citizens to consider leaving while commercial airlines are operating normally.