Mali Junta Takes Control of Loyalist Base

Posted May 1st, 2012 at 2:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Soldiers from Mali's ruling junta have taken control of the main base for troops loyal to ousted President Toumani Toure after a second day of heavy fighting.

Gunfire erupted Tuesday in the Malian capital, Bamako, outside of the national broadcaster, the airport and the army bases of both sides. Hospital officials say at least 15 people were killed and dozens injured.

Junta officials said Tuesday that the loyalist camp has fallen and the remaining soldiers have fled. The U.S. embassy in Bamako said the “counter-effort” by forces loyal to ousted President Toure appears to have failed.

The fighting, which erupted Monday, reportedly followed an attempt to arrest a member of the presidential guard who was a top military aid to former President Toure.

Early Tuesday, coup leaders said in a televised statement that they remain in control of key sites in the capital. They described the fighting as an attack by ill-intentioned people set on destabilizing Mali's transition to constitutional order.

Renegade seized power in Mali on March 22, accusing President Toure of failing to properly equip the army to handle a Tuareg rebellion in the north.

The new military government, under pressure from the regional bloc ECOWAS, later agreed to form a civilian transitional government to organize new elections.

Last week, Mali's interim leaders announced the formation of a new government that gave military officers three government posts – defense, interior security and interior ministry. The rest of the 24-member government is made up of civilians.

Cheick Traore, leader of Mali's African Convergence for Renewal party, told VOA that the power struggles in the country have not been good for the Malian people.

“The Malians are very confused since March 22 because in all of this nobody is asking Malians what they want, nobody is informing them properly and once again today they are very very very confused. They are traumatized, I should say.”

Burkina Faso's foreign minister, Djibril Bassole, told VOA that no matter who is in charge in Bamako, the regional bloc ECOWAS “will never accept that militaries seize power.” He said a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with junta leaders has been canceled.