Grenade explodes outside ex-president's home

Madagascar's Ministry of Defence has pledged to apprehend the people behind a grenade attack outside the home of former president Albert Zafy in the capital, Antananarivo, during the early hours of Thursday morning.

"At about 4 am a loud explosion was heard outside Zafy's home," Ministry of Defence media officer Paul Andre told IRIN. "The police were called in to investigate and it was discovered that a grenade had gone off. Fortunately, there were no deaths nor injuries, but the explosion did cause some damage to the property."

Zafy was close to President Marc Ravalomanana when he came to power in 2002 after a protracted battle with his predecessor, Didier Ratsiraka, but now heads the opposition National Reconciliation Committee.

Andre said the police were yet to establish a link between a series of grenade explosions that rocked three cities around the island during last month's Independence Day celebrations [26 June] and the blast at Zafy's residence.

"So far the police have apprehended one person in connection with the [Independence Day] explosions but it is still difficult to say if in fact there is any connection between those events and Friday morning's attack," he said.

Forty people were injured when "unknown assailants" exploded grenades in the towns of Toliary on the southwest coast, Fianarantsoa in the neighbouring province of the same name, and Mahajanga on the northwest coast, where crowds had gathered during festivities marking the 44th anniversary of Madagascar’s independence from France.

Local analysts have said the recent spate of attacks reflected mounting disappointment in Ravalomana's government that promised increased opportunities when it came to power two years ago after weeks of civil unrest following a disputed presidential poll forced Ratsiraka from power.

Fuelling much of this discontent is an inflation rate that reached 3.5 percent in the first quarter of this year and which was expected to hit 5 percent for 2004. Over the first three months of 2004, the cost of rice, a staple food, shot up by 12.7 percent.

The government has also been the focus of growing frustration from army reservists demanding better compensation for their role in the 2002 political crisis. Thirty-two people were injured after a reservist let off a grenade during a demonstration in the city's main square in June.