Potential Hot Spots: July 2, 2002

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Pro-Ravalomanana (RAV) loyalists entered Antsiranana, Diego Suarez province's (Northern Madagascar) administrative capital at 18.00 hours 2 July. RAV units were in control of key points and the airport, four miles (seven km) south of the town. The airport fell after heavy fighting, while RAV chief of general staff General Sylvain Razafimandimby said that "our men took it after neutralizing anti-aircraft batteries".

An unnamed RAV general staff officer claimed that they had armored vehicles and heavy artillery at Moramanga, 67 miles (108 km) from Brickaville, where their next target was the Brickaville bridge roadblock. The officer estimated that it would take 48 hours to overrun these RAT positions 135 miles (220 km) east of Antananarivo on the road towards Toamasina. 

As a Follow Up on previous reports, RAV forces managed to take control of Ambilogodra hill (around 100 km from the city of Antsiranana) on the morning of 1 July, after being repelled twice by Ratsiraka (RAT) elite forces. The strategic position gave the RAV control of the communication routes to Antsiranana.

RAV General Peter Behajaina told the press on 2 June that the next objective would be North Anivorano (74km south of Antsiranana). RAT forces have set up defenses backed by an anti-aircraft machine gun around 50 km south of the city, covering the Saharenana River bridge. Some sources inside of Antsiranana claimed that RAV advance units were just 12 miles (20 km) away on the night of 1 June, which suggest that the RAT lines had been bypassed.

Over the night on 2-3 July, a RAT officer on guard duty shot dead a pro-RAT militiaman who pulled a gun on him. The incident occurred when the militiaman tried to free one of his comrades being held in a defense ministry police barracks cell. Sporadic gunfire and explosions could also be heard throughout the night. 

Another resident reported that Ratsiraka's most feared military aide, Lieutenant-Colonel Ancelin Koutiti, flew out of Antsiranana on a Sonavem company private plane (owned by Ratsiraka's son Xavierto) to Toamasina, the country's eastern port town where the former head of state had set up his base early this year. Several sources confirmed this report. Antsiranana province's pro-Ratsiraka governor, Jean-Robert Gara, also fled on 1 June in a speedboat with Lieutenant-Colonel Balbine, another hardline officer.

Koutiti and two other pro-RAT officers have been combing the country's north with commando squads of regular soldiers and militiamen, executing a relentless campaign of torture, murder and intimidation. Ratsiraka now only controls part of the Tamatave region (his traditional power bastion and the island's principal harbor, Toamasina). The city's defenses were assigned to Colonel Koutiti's Rapid Intervention Force, which is better trained and equipped than the RAV troops. The majority of RAT forces where militias recruited from the local population, which have usually fled before the advancing RAV army. 

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin was expected to arrive in Antananarivo on 3 July to meet Madagascan elected-President Marc Ravalomanana.
Ravalomanana announced late on the 2nd that two new ministerial posts would be created, to allow members of Ratsiraka's Arema party into the new government. Some say that this was one condition set by France in return for recognition of Ravalomanana's legitimacy. - Adam Geibel

 

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