Madagascar jail raided over nun's murder in Mandritsara

BY: Sebastian Syme

Two people have been killed after protesters stormed a jail in Madagascar where the three alleged killers of a French nun were believed to be held.

The police at the prison in Mandritsara, a remote town in the north-east of the island, fired into the crowd to try and disperse them.

Sister Marie Emmanuel Helesbeux, 82, was killed on Saturday, reportedly in a dispute over loans she had made.

She had spent 42 years in Madagascar and was respected for her charity work.

Angry demonstrations began a day after her killing.

Correspondents say instances of mob justice are common in Madagascar.

'Self defence'

Three men were arrested for killing the nun. She had been strangled by people who allegedly owed her money and her body was found in the cattle market.

After her funeral on Monday, the accused were moved from the police station where they were being held because of concerns for their safety.

It is not clear exactly where the three men were transferred, but the crowd later attacked the prison.

Lt Col Lala Rakotonirina, head of communications at the paramilitary police, told the BBC two people were killed overnight.

A local gendarmerie commander said that the prison guards "opened fire in self-defence".

"Hundreds, even thousands of people tried to invade the prison with projectiles and we couldn't do anything because we didn't have teargas," Leon Andriamanantena told the AFP news agency.

According to Catholic news agency Fides, the clashes have continued into Tuesday, with anger now turned towards the police for having fired on the protesters.

Father Luca Treglia, the director of Catholic Radio Don Bosco in the capital, Antananarivo, told Fides that just before midday local time (09:00 GMT) when they spoke to their reporter in Mandritsara, shooting could be heard in the background.

Up to nine people are believed to have been wounded, three of them seriously, the agency says.