Gunfire Reported Outside Mali’s Presidential Palace

Posted March 21st, 2012 at 5:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Reports from Mali say mutinous soldiers are firing weapons outside the presidential palace, after troops launched a protest Wednesday against the government's handling of a rebellion.

The U.S. embassy in the capital, Bamako, has announced it is monitoring the situation closely. It advised U.S. citizens to stay indoors.

State radio and television went off the air earlier, after soldiers stormed the state broadcaster. The soldiers are demanding better weapons to fight ethnic Tuareg rebels who have seized several towns in Mali's remote northern desert region.

The unrest began at the Kati military camp in a suburb of Bamako. Soldiers fired their guns into the air after a meeting with Mali's defense minister that apparently went badly. At least two soldiers were wounded during the protest.

Wives and mothers of the soldiers held a separate protest in Bamako last month, also demanding that the soldiers get better weapons to fight the rebels.

Tuareg fighters began their rebellion in January, after many Tuareg fighters returned from Libya, where they had assisted ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Tuareg nomads have launched periodic uprisings for greater autonomy in both Mali and Niger.