* More arrests to follow
* Army members, civilians accused of coup plot
By Alain Iloniaina
ANTANANARIVO, April 19 (Reuters) - Security forces in Madagascar arrested 19 people on Sunday on suspicion of plotting a coup, the latest in a series of plot rumours to hit the Indian Ocean island’s capital in the past few weeks.
Lieutenant Colonel Rene Lylison, the head of the security unit that carried out the arrests, told reporters the plan was to attack the prime minister’s residence in the early hours of Monday morning.
“It was serious. Some officers had prepared a coup d’etat, to kill Malagasies ... fortunately, we were able to prevent the attempt,” he said. “Their goal was to kill, and divide the military.”
There is growing disquiet in Madagascar over the rule of President Andry Rajoelina, a former mayor of the capital who seized power with the help of dissident soldiers in March 2009.
The African Union imposed sanctions on Rajoelina and 108 of his backers in March this year for failing to install a unity government with the country’s three main opposition groups.
Analysts say some high-level military officials are frustrated at Rajoelina’s failure to end the crisis and restore constitutional order. [ID:nLDE63D0TE]
On April 12, the army gave the president until the end of April to offer an acceptable way out of the political crisis and end the uncertainty that has hit foreign investment and left the economy struggling.
While some analysts said the army ultimatum might be just what is needed to bring the political groups to the negotiating table, there have been rifts within the army ever since dissident troops backed Rajoelina’s power-grab.
Divisions within Rajoelina’s government have also emerged. In early April, Rajoelina’s prime minister sacked Armed Forces Minister General Noel Rakotonandrasana in a show of no confidence. But Rakotonandrasana has refused to leave his post.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the suspected coup plot, although some army officers and a number of civilians were arrested. Lylison said more arrests were likely to follow. (Editing by David Clarke and Giles Elgood)