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Oil report

Madagascar holds bomb suspects, says have opposition ties

ANTANANARIVO, June 24 (Reuters) - Madagascar’s police said on Wednesday they had arrested a group of men suspected of attempted bomb attacks which the government said had connections to the opposition movement of ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana.

A senior officer told Reuters between five and seven men were seized overnight and into Wednesday. They were mostly employees of the exiled Ravalomanana’s business empire Tiko.

The army-backed government of Andry Rajoelina has accused Ravalomanana of planning a coup in a bid to return to the Indian Ocean island after his forced departure in March.

“We have arrested several suspects over the bombs. We found more homemade bombs and Molotov cocktails in their houses,” military police commander Colonel Bruno Razafindrakoto said.

More arrests were likely, he added, saying house-raids had unearthed further explosive-making material ahead of Independence Day on Friday.

Political turmoil has wrought havoc on Madagascar since the beginning of 2009, stunting economic growth and leaving former opposition leader Rajoelina’s government in diplomatic isolation.

The political instability has alarmed foreign investors exploring for oil, colbalt, nickel, gold and uranium.

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In mid-June, an explosive device partially blew up inside a city supermarket, causing minor damage but no casualties. Several days later, military experts defused an unexploded bomb near a security post in the capital Antananarivo.

Rajoelina’s prime minister said there was a clear link between the opposition and the spate of bomb discoveries.

“This is a political coup,” Roindefo Monja told Reuters.

Officials did not specifically point the finger at Ravalomanana himself in relation to the bomb attempts.

At the weekend, the South African Development Community -- which has suspended Madagascar -- appointed former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano to lead crisis talks after African Union-led efforts to resolve the political deadlock collapsed.

Tensions have risen ahead of Friday’s celebration of 49 years of independence since French colonial rule.

The former DJ and mayor of Antananarivo, Rajoelina, has bolstered security in the capital, and along the coastline of the world’s fourth largest island.

Ravalomanana, who fled to South Africa, insists he remains the country’s legitimate leader and has rejected sharing power with 35-year old Rajoelina.

In an interview with French RFI radio to be broadcast on Thursday, Rajoelina claimed there are people “thirsty for power” and said that Ravalomanana was informing his backers he would soon be back with soldiers.

There was no immediate response to the arrests from Ravalomanana’s party in Madagascar.

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