Madagascar opposition decries 'terrorism' after police kill 19

Police in the southeastern town of Ikongo opened fire on what was described as a lynch mob who stormed a police station demanding to mete out justice to suspects arrested for kidnapping a child with albinism earlier this week.

Madagascar opposition decries 'terrorism' after police kill 19
Picture: Pixabay.com

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar - Madagascar's largest opposition party leader on Wednesday accused the government of committing "state terrorism" after police shot dead 19 civilians who were angered by the kidnapping of an albino child.

Police in the southeastern town of Ikongo opened fire on what was described as a lynch mob who stormed a police station demanding to mete out justice to suspects arrested for kidnapping a child with albinism earlier this week.

Nineteen people were killed and 21 wounded.

The national police chief defended the officers saying they acted in self-defence after a crowd armed with sticks and machetes tried to force its way into the station.

"I am talking about state terrorism because it was the gendarmes and the police who fired on the population," Marc Ravalomanana, who leads the main opposition party, Tiako I Madagasikara, told AFP by phone.

"They have to protect people and not shoot them. I'm very shocked," said the 72-year-old who served as Madagascar president between 2002 and 2009.

The government did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Authorities have opened an investigation into the incident, with Defence Minister Richard Rakotonirina vowing "necessary sanctions" would be taken.

Police have given no information about what happened to the four kidnap suspects, who were unaccounted for, according to local district gendarme commander Cyr Razafialison.

After the shooting, the officers involved had made a "strategic retreat" to a nearby town, he said.

Additional forces have been deployed "to keep the peace" in Ikongo, a town about 350 kilometres (220 miles) south of the capital Antananarivo.

Revenge attacks are common in Madagascar.

Ikongo saw 800 people barge into a prison in February 2017, in search of a murder suspect they intended to kill. They overpowered guards, allowing 120 prisoners to break out of jail.

In 2013, a Frenchman, a Franco-Italian and a local man accused of killing a child on the tourist island of Nosy Be were burnt alive by a crowd.

Some sub-Saharan African countries have suffered a wave of assaults against people with albinism, whose body parts are sought for witchcraft practices in the mistaken belief that they bring luck and wealth.