Mali junta shuts borders after coup, President safe

Coup leaders in Mali ordered all borders closed after taking over key buildings in Bamako and ousting President overnight.

Last Updated: Mar 23, 2012, 00:21 AM IST

Bamako: Coup leaders in Mali on Thursday ordered
all borders closed after taking over key buildings in Bamako
and ousting President Amadou Toumani Toure overnight, sparking
international concern and condemnation.

The band of mutineers, calling themselves the National
Committee for the Establishment of Democracy, said their move
was prompted by government`s "inability" to put down a
Tuareg-led insurrection in the north.

Sporadic gunfire rang out in the capital as condemnation
poured in from western powers and the African Union urged "the
mutineers immediately to put an end" to the country`s first
coup in 21 years.

France suspended cooperation with its former colony,
urging soldiers not to harm Toure who was at a military camp
under protection from his elite paratrooper guard. It remained
unclear how tight the junta`s grip on power was.

Washington, which has repeatedly voiced fears parts of
Mali and neighbouring countries were becoming a safe haven for
jihadi extremists, called "for the immediate restoration of
constitutional rule."

While politically stable, smouldering troubles in Mali`s
north where light-skinned Tuareg tribes have long felt ignored
by a southern government and al Qaeda has taken deep root,
turned the region into a tinderbox.

This was ignited when the demise of Muammar Gaddafi
sparked the return of hundreds of heavily-armed Tuareg rebels
who had fought for him in Libya and were ready to take up a
decades-long struggle for independence.

What began as a mutiny over the government`s response to
the rekindled Tuareg insurrection in the north yesterday
turned into a full-blown coup as soldiers seized control of
the presidential palace and the state broadcaster.

A few dozen soldiers appeared on the screens after hours
of music videos played in a loop. They appeared to be largely
rank-and-file green-beret soldiers, with only two officers
present. (AFP)

PTI