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Madagascar: police open fire on civilians, 19 dead and 28 injured

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, demonstrators gather ...   -  
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Liu Fang/AP -

Madagascar

Nineteen people were killed and 28 wounded Monday in Madagascar after gendarmes opened fire on angry residents over a murky kidnapping case, local and medical sources told AFP.

"The gendarmes (...) fired on the crowd," said Jean Brunelle Razafintsiandraofa, MP for the eastern district of Ikongo, where the incident took place.

"Nine people died on the spot," said Tango Oscar Toky, chief physician at the local hospital. And out of 33 injured people received in the morning, five died in hospital, he added.

At around 08:00 GMT, gunfire rang out in Ikongo. Since last week, the small town is under shock: a child, an albino, disappeared and the authorities suspect a kidnapping.

On the large Indian Ocean island, people with albinism are regularly the target of violence. More than a dozen abductions, attacks, and murders have been reported in the past two years, according to the United Nations.

Four suspects have been arrested by the gendarmes. But the residents are determined to take justice into their own hands.

In the morning, they went to the gendarmerie barracks and demanded that the four suspects be handed over, according to Razafintsiandraofa.

According to a gendarmerie source, at least 500 people showed up, some with "white weapons" and "machetes.

"There were negotiations, the villagers insisted," said the source. The gendarmes then decided to throw smoke bombs to disperse the crowd and fired a few shots in the air.

But the residents continued to try to force their way into the barracks. "We had no choice but to defend ourselves..." said the same source.

The Malagasy police are regularly singled out by civil society for human rights violations, which are rarely prosecuted.

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