Mali Interim President Attacked, Taken to Hospital

Posted May 21st, 2012 at 6:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Protesters who broke into Mali's presidential palace attacked the country's interim leader, who was rushed to a hospital in the capital, Bamako.

Hospital workers said Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore, was released after emergency treatment.

The president's chief of staff told the VOA correspondent in Bamako that Mr. Traore's life is not in danger. However, the full extent of his injuries is unknown.

Mr. Traore was accosted and beaten Monday, a day after the West African regional bloc ECOWAS and Mali's military junta had agreed he would continue serving as interim president past Tuesday, when his mandate had been scheduled to end.

Protesters came to the presidential palace Monday to demand Mr. Traore's resignation. His chief of staff, Souleymane Niafo, told VOA the intruders overpowered guards and forced their way into the palace, where they attacked Mr. Traore in his office.

Monday's confrontation followed a protest march through the streets of Bamako by thousands of people.

Mali has suffered through weeks of political turmoil since military officers seized power in a coup March 22 and deposed the country's longtime president, Amadou Toumani Toure.

Under pressure from ECOWAS to restore constitutional order, the coup's military leaders installed Mr. Traore as interim president last month. The deal the two sides reached on Sunday called for Mr. Traore to remain in office until the country holds elections and restores full civilian rule.

Under terms of the accord, ECOWAS agreed to recognize the coup's military leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, as a former head of state. A spokesman for the interim government, Hamadoune Toure, told VOA Monday such benefits and privileges for the junta leader do not mean he would be able to influence the transition process.

“It's not recognizing him to have a say, but they [ECOWAS] said he will have advantages recognized to all former heads of state. They invited him to work as a team with the president and with the prime minister for the supreme interests of Mali.”

The soldiers who seized power in Mali two months ago said they acted because authorities in Bamako were ineffectual in their handling of a Tuareg rebellion in the north. The rebels and Islamist groups fighting with them made territorial gains during the turmoil following the coup, and they now control more than half the country.