Mali govt leaders ‘safe and sound’: Coup leader
AFP BAMAKO MALI’S coup leader said on 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 on 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. 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 fullblown 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.
“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.” Meanwhile, in a related development, Europe suspended aid amid a chorus of rebukes and African security chiefs called an emergency meeting over the coup in a west African country key to fighting trans-frontier drug trafficking and growing terrorism.
The World Bank and African Development Bank also suspended development aid after Mali’s first coup in 21 years.
China added to the critique which has poured in from the UN, France and across Africa.
“We oppose unconstitutional takeover of power,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. Amnesty International said at least three people had been shot dead, with 28 wounded, while the Red Cross said it had treated 40 people for mostly bullet wounds.