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Death toll nears 40 from Madagascar unrest

By on January 28, 2009

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) – Up to 37 charred corpses of suspected looters have now been found in a store burned during unrest in Madagascar this week, a senior fire official said on Wednesday.
If confirmed, that would take the death toll from this week’s violence on the Indian Ocean island to 39.

“We have found perhaps as many as 37 bodies. It is hard to determine the precise numbers because the bodies are badly damaged, and there are limbs scattered all over the place,” the fire officer in charge at the scene told Reuters by telephone.

On Monday tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets, burning the state-owned television and radio station in some of the worst anti-government violence for years.
A teenager and a policeman were killed in the urest, which revived memories of past political volatility on Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island.

Antananarivo’s 34-year-old mayor and opposition leader, Andry Rajoelina, has called for peaceful demonstrations in the city’s main square against President Marc Ravalomanana’s government on Wednesday.

Angry at the closure of his private TV station in December, Rajoelina has denounced Ravalomanana as a dictator. The president accuses the mayor of trying to stir up a revolt.

Madagascar is going through an oil and minerals exploration boom. Major foreign companies investing in Madagascar include Rio Tinto and Sherritt International, which plan to extract nickel, bauxite, cobalt and Ilmenite. Exploration companies are also looking for oil, gold, coal, chrome and uranium.

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