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Military coup in Mali,soldiers loot presidency

Soldiers looted the presidential palace of one of the few established democracies in this corner of Africa,hours after ousting Mali’s president,just about one month before he was due to leave office anyway

Written by Associated Press | Bamako |
March 23, 2012 12:48:45 am

Soldiers looted the presidential palace Thursday of one of the few established democracies in this corner of Africa,hours after ousting Mali’s president,just about one month before he was due to leave office anyway.

Gunfire could be heard ringing throughout the capital,and soldiers were seen carting televisions and other goods out of the palace following a coup announcement on state television. President Amadou Toumani Toure’s whereabouts were unclear.

The soldiers imposed a nationwide curfew,warning people to stay off the streets until further notice. Land borders were closed,and a flight headed to Bamako was forced to make a U-turn after the airport closed.

The soldiers said they intended to hand over power to an elected government,though the polls scheduled for April 29 seemed unlikely. More than a dozen candidates were expected to run,though the incumbent was not taking part,as he already had served the maximum two terms.

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The soldiers said they were overthrowing the government because of its mishandling of an ethnic Tuareg insurgency in the country’s north. The rebellion grew when fighters who had supported the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi returned home heavily armed. The unrest has forced tens of thousands to flee,and has prompted fierce criticism.

Early Thursday,a group of around 20 soldiers in military fatigues were shown on national television. They said they were suspending Mali’s constitution and dissolving its institutions. Mali is now under the control of the military’s National Committee for the Reestablishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State,or CNRDR.

The developments in Mali drew swift condemnation from the president of Nigeria,as well as from the African Union and the regional bloc ECOWAS. ECOWAS said it was “all the more reprehensible,coming amidst the ongoing regional and international efforts to seek a peaceful solution to the rebellion in the north.’’

The soldiers’ declaration came just hours after the presidential palace rushed to deny that a coup was in progress,issuing a Tweet that said: “There is no coup in Mali. There’s just a mutiny.’’

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