Security beefed up after grenade attacks

Malagasy police have beefed up security in the country's major towns in the wake of a series of grenade attacks against political and business associates of President Marc Ravalomanana.

The authorities confirmed that houses belonging to two prominent local figures were attacked in the early hours of Friday in the western coastal city of Toliara.

"The first grenade went off at around midnight just outside the house of the regional Tiko director, and the second grenade exploded in the courtyard of the house belonging to the head of cabinet in the youth and sports ministry," Ministry of Defence media officer, Paul Andre, told IRIN on Monday. Agribusiness group Tiko is owned by Ravalomanana.

In the capital, Antananarivo, a grenade exploded outside the home of former president Albert Zafy during the early hours of Thursday morning .

"There will be increased security measures put in place in the major centres around the country, as well as improved protection for prominent businessmen and politicians. But there is no intention to declare a state of emergency," Andre said. "We are confident that our investigations will lead to those responsible for these criminal acts."

No injuries were incurred as a result of the explosions, and Andre said the grenades "were probably left over from the 2002 political crisis. During the crisis there were a lot of weapons circulating all across the country. Also, we must admit that controls at the borders are not as secure as we would like them to be."

Madagascar sank into political crisis in 2002 after a disputed presidential election in December 2001. The largely peaceful standoff was marked by sporadic clashes between supporters of Ravalomanana and former president Didier Ratsiraka.

The authorities have been reticent to link the recent grenade attacks to growing frustration over soaring inflation - Malagasy have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest the high cost of living.

"The government is trying to remedy these problems but there are a few elements within the society who are intent on destabilising the country," Andre remarked.

Festivities marking independence day last month were marred by three grenade explosions in three different towns, injuring more than 30 people.