French citizen among six held over plan to kill Madagascar president -minister


FILE PHOTO: Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina attends a meeting to discuss the 20th replenishment of the World Bank's International Development Association, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast July 15, 2021. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) -A French citizen is among six people arrested on suspicion of involvement in a plot to kill Madagascar's president, the Indian Ocean island's public security minister said, and a second official said the president's security had been tightened.

"One of the arrested people is French, two of them are bi-national - Malagasy and French. The three others are Malagasy," Rodellys Fanomezantsoa Randrianarison told a news conference late on Thursday.

Madagascar's attorney general said on Thursday police had arrested the six following what officials said was a months-long investigation.

Patrick Rajoelina, an adviser to President Andry Rajoelina, told Reuters on Friday that two of those arrested had previously worked in the French military.

The French Foreign Affairs Ministry said it had been informed of French nationals' arrests and that they could obtain consular help if they asked for it.

A spokesman for the French armed forces told Reuters he had no comment.

Patrick Rajoelina added that unspecified measures had been taken to tighten the president's security. "The evidence is tangible and we certainly do not take this lightly," he said.

Madagascar has a history of political violence and instability. Andry Rajoelina, 44, was sworn in as president in 2019 after a hard-fought election and a constitutional court challenge from his rival.

Rajoelina first took power in the deeply impoverished former French colony of 26 million people in a March 2009 coup, removing Marc Ravalomanana. He remained in control at the head of a transitional government until 2014.

In the 2019 elections, Ravalomanana challenged Rajoelina, lost, and said the vote was fraudulent.

(Reporting by Lovasoa Rabary; additional reporting by Matthieu Protard in Paris; writing by George Obulutsa; editing by Kevin Liffey and Mark Heinrich)

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