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Mali president and ministers 'safe', coup leaders say

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-03-23

Mali's coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo said Friday that the country's deposed president was unharmed and that arrested ministers would soon be put on trial. Sanogo also condemned the looting by soldiers that followed Wednesday night's putsch.

AFP - Mali's coup leader said Friday that the arrested ministers would soon be handed over to the courts for trial and the president, whose whereabouts are unclear, was unharmed.

Captain Amadou Sanogo said President Amadou Toumani Toure was safe and "doing very well", saying he did not want to reveal his location.

Members of Toure's entourage said Thursday he was under the protection of his elite paratrooper guard at a military barracks. However it was not clear if this was still the case a day later.

Tuareg rebels to continue independence fight

AFP - Mali's Tuareg rebels will press on with their bid to take over the country's north, which sparked a coup by soldiers angry at the government's handling of the conflict, a statement on their website said.

They "will continue the offensive to dislodge the Malian army and its administration from all the towns of Azawad" - the name for their professed homeland in the northern triangle of the bow-tie shaped nation, it said.

Several government ministers were arrested when the mutinous troops attacked the presidential palace on Wednesday night.

"These people are safe and sound. We will not touch a hair on their heads. I will hand them over to the courts so that the Malian people know the truth," Sanogo, who speaks in a raspy, hoarse voice told journalists in an interview.

He was speaking at a military barracks 15 kilometres (9 miles) from Bamako, surrounded by rank-and-file soldiers, who appear to form the backbone behind the coup, with few officers among the coup leaders.

It was at this barracks in Kati that a mutiny broke out Wednesday, leading to a full-blown coup after months of anger over the government's response to a Tuareg rebellion in the north.

Soldiers attacked the presidential palace, which was shown pitted with bullet holes, a small part of it blackened by fire, in images broadcast on state television -- also under control of the renegade soldiers.

Sanogo condemned looting, including that of government vehicles, by soldiers after the coup.

"I ask the population to forgive us for any inconvenience caused, and I ask for a stop to looting," he said, adding vandalism had also been carried out by people with "bad intentions" who had put on uniforms and taken to looting.

He said it was not only the northern insurrection by Tuareg that had prompted the coup but a general malaise within government.

African Union suspends Mali

REUTERS - The African Union said on Friday it had suspended Mali's membership after mutinous soldiers staged a coup against President Amadou Toumani Toure this week.

"(The) council decided Mali should be suspended from further participation in all its activities until effective restoration of constitutional order is achieved without delay," Paul Lolo, chairman of the African Union's Peace and Security Council, said.

"When a state is already 50 years old, and unfortunately the armed forces and security operate under minimal conditions to defend its territory, this is a failure," Sanogo said, justifying the coup.

"Then, everyone is aware of the high cost of living ... that leads on to revolt. Civilians have spoken, made demands. That is what led us to this situation.

"For now, I am not saying that we will have a military transition, it will involve everyone," he said. When the coup was announced Thursday the soldiers promised an eventual return to democracy.

Sanogo said he planned to set up a committee grouping all political parties and civil society organisations.

In another interview broadcast on national television, Sanogo said Tuareg rebels who had been battling the regime for independence could join the army or be dealt with firmly.

"It is possible that these groups fighting because they were not in agreement with the government. I will give them the opportunity to come around, otherwise I will face that what I have to face."

"I am not a man of war," he said. "I am not here just to arm myself, arm the Malian army to go and kill anyone who is in its path. I am not a man of that sort."

Date created : 2012-03-23

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