Police opened fire on an opposition demonstration in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, killing at least 23 people, reports say (photo, from bbc.co.uk).
Some reports suggest that as many as 30 people may have been killed.
Repeated protests have taken place against the dismissal of Antananarivo Mayor Andry Rajoelina, who is engaged in a power struggle with the president.
President Marc Ravalomanana is accused by the sacked mayor of misspending public money and being a dictator
“Up to now, 25 are dead”, an unnamed senior police officer at the scene was quoted by Reuters as saying.
AFP said that at least 23 people had been killed according to the fire brigade, while local media reported that 30 people were killed.
Riot police opened fire while demonstrators were marching towards President Ravalomanana’s compound.
The former mayor’s supporters had earlier declared him head of a “transition higher authority”, during a rally attended by 20 000.
“The people were not armed, they only had their courage”, said Mr Rajoelina on Viva Radio, immediately after the shooting.
It is not clear if he was with the demonstration when the shooting broke out.
Dozens of injured were at the city’s main hospital.
“The crowd was walking peacefully, then all of a sudden, the military opened fire”, Jocelyn Ratolojanahary, whose hand was bandaged, told Reuters.
President Ravalomanana reportedly blamed the opposition leader for the violence.
“He (Rajoelina) led people to take the presidential palace by force and didn’t know how to control them”, Mr Ravalomanana told state television, according to Reuters news agency.
On Tuesday, the government sacked Mr Rajoelina and replaced as mayor by Guy Randrianarisoa, a local city official.
Mr Rajoelina, who has successfully tapped into widespread frustration with the government, has said he would set up a transitional administration unless the president steps down.
In January, dozens of people died in unrest, after anti-government protests turned into rioting and looting.
Madagascar is the world’s fourth-largest island. It has become a destination for tourists as well as foreign companies, searching for oil, gold, cobalt, nickel and uranium.