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REBEL ANTANANARIVO MAYOR AND GUARDS
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MILITANT MAYOR SUPPORTERS
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MORTALLY SHOT PROTESTER
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KILLED BY SOLDIERS OF THE PRESIDENTIAL PALACE
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MADAGASCAR RIOTS AND LOOTING AND RANSACKING OF SHOPS CONTINUE AND MANY PROTESTERS KILLED AS THEY MARCHED TO THE PRESIDENTIAL MARK RAVALOMANANA'S PALACE AND THE DEFENCE MINISTER RESIGNS.
 
ANTSIRANANA 090209-2
February 9, 2009

[Diocese of Antsiranana - Indian Ocean] RIOTS AND LOOTING AND RANSACKING OF SHOPS CONTINUE AND MANY PROTESTERS KILLED AS THEY MARCHED TO THE PRESIDENTIAL MARK RAVALOMANANA PALACE AND THE DEFENCE MINISTER RESIGNS.Madagascar defence minister quits
Madagascar's defence minister has quit after police shot dead at least 28 opposition protesters at the weekend.
Cecile Manorohanta reportedly said she did not want to remain in a government that condoned shooting of civilians.
It comes amid a power struggle between President Marc Ravalomanana and opposition leader Andry Rajoelina.
The BBC's Christina Corbett in Antananarivo says there is a tense calm in the capital and emotions are still running high.
There are reports on Monday that some 5,000 people have gathered in the city to hold a memorial for those who died in the weekend's protest.
Mr Rajoelina on Saturday organised a large rally attended by some 20,000 people during which he announced a "transition authority" and named his own prime minister.
In addition to at least 28 people who died as security forces opened fire on demonstrators marching towards the presidential compound, more than 200 people were wounded.
In a statement read out on the private radio channel Antsive on Monday, the defence minister said: "In this period of political crisis, I extend my condolences and moral support to the families who suffered losses," reported AFP news agency.
"As a mother, I do not tolerate this violence. It was agreed at government level that the security forces were meant to protect the population and its property."
She reportedly added: "After all that has happened, I decide as of now to no longer remain part of this government."
A presidential decree issued soon after the defence minister resigned named her replacement as Mamy Ranaivoniarivo.
The weekend's protests followed last week's dismissal of Mr Rajoelina as mayor of the capital, Antananarivo.
The 34-year-old former DJ has accused President Ravalomanana of being a dictator and of misspending public money.
President Ravalomanana, 59, who is also a former mayor of Antananarivo, has accused the opposition leader of trouble-making.
Dozens of people were killed in unrest in January after anti-government protests turned into rioting and looting.
Madagascar, the world's fourth-largest island, has become a destination for tourists as well as foreign companies, searching for oil, gold, cobalt, nickel and uranium.