Millennium Post

Mali ex-junta says counter-coup defeated

The soldiers who staged a putsch in Mali five weeks ago said today that they had defeated an overnight counter-coup by forces loyal to ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure.

Gunfire had erupted at the national TV and radio station, the airport and at the garrison town near the capital Bamako that is the headquarters of the rebel soldiers led by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo.

An employee of the TV and radio station, which had been held by rebel soldiers since the 22 March coup, said that 'there were deaths' in the gunfight, without giving casualty figures.

The resurgence of fighting dimmed hopes for a quick return to order in the west African country where political chaos has allowed Tuareg rebels and Islamists to seize swathes of the vast desert north.

The coup leaders, under intense regional and international pressure, have allowed a civilian interim government to take over but have kept making arrests, which witnesses said sparked the latest violence.

The fighting followed an attempt by junta loyalists to arrest Abidine Guindo, the former chief of staff of toppled president Toure. Guindo was the head of the 'Red Berets' presidential guard.

After an evening when gunfire echoed through the capital, Sanogo declared early today in a message that scrolled across the screen of state television that 'the situation is under control'.

The coup leader said his troops were in control of the airport, the state TV and radio station and the Kati army barracks.

A statement repeatedly broadcast by the private Kayira radio station and attributed to Sanago deplored the presence of 'mercenaries' and 'foreign troops' fighting alongside the Red Berets.

Another putschist later appeared on television, surrounded by military officers, to also declare the situation was 'secure'.

He said 'ill-intentioned individuals' backed by 'foreign elements' had launched attacks on the airport and other locations to 'destabilise the return to constitutional order', adding that 'these locations are now secure'.

He said several arrests had been made and vowed that those involved 'will be actively tracked down'.

Despite the assurances, there was confusion in the capital Bamako.

Early in the night, a regional diplomatic source indicated that the Bamako airport was under the control of loyalist forces.


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