Mali coup draws wide condemnation

EU suspends development operations in Mali as west African regional body criticises 'military adventurism'

The military coup in Mali has been widely condemned, with the west African regional body Ecowas describing it as "military adventurism" and the African Union calling an emergency meeting in Addis Ababa.

The US state department has called for calm, and the EU has suspended its development operations in the country. All land borders and the airport in the capital, Bamako, have been closed, stranding a delegation of Kenyan MPs, including the foreign minister, Moses Wetangula.

A tense calm has been restored in Bamako after the coup deposed long-serving president Amadou Toumani Touré. Witnesses said shooting could be heard in central areas during the night as groups of soldiers drove around firing into the air, but it had since died down.

Widespread looting has been reported, along with incidents of soldiers flagging down cars and then stealing them.

The military was ordered back to barracks on Friday morning by the coup leaders, a group of relatively junior and hitherto unknown soldiers known as the National Committee for the Reinstatement of Democracy and the Restoration of the State (CNRDRE).

"Things are a lot more calm now, although shooting can still be heard in some places," said Abdoul Karim Ba, a journalist in the city. "People still don't really know what is going on."

Ba said the coup leaders had called a meeting of officials in the town of Kati, 10 miles north of Bamako, on Friday but details have not yet been released.

A stalemate seems to have descended between the coup leaders, who are in control of most state institutions and territory in Bamako, and the "Red Berets", the elite presidential guard, who are believed to be protecting the ousted president. Touré's whereabouts are unknown. Some sources put him at the US embassy compound, while rumours claim he has fled to Guinea.

"People don't really seem to be very scared" said a resident of Bamako, who asked to remain anonymous. "A lot of people support the coup because they were sick of young soldiers being sent up north to be used as cannon fodder."

The coup leader, Amadou Sanogo, said on Thursday that it had been staged in retaliation for Touré's poor handling of a Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country,. Scores of Malian soldiers have died facing better-armed, better-organised rebels.

State television was briefly taken off air on Thursday but news bulletins have since recommenced, with the most recent broadcasts telling Malians that the situation is under control. Internet and phone services appear to be working properly, but banks and shops remain shut. The Tuareg rebels launched raids on a number of fronts in January, apparently helped by weaponry brought back from Libya, where they had been fighting on the side of Muammar Gaddafi. They are seeking independence for the Tuareg homelands, a vast desert region more than 600 miles from Bamako.

Mali's poorly equipped army of just 7,000 men has proved no match for the rebels, who hold several key towns in the north, including Tessalit, Aguel Hoc and Menaka. The rebels announced on Thursday that they had also captured Anefis, near Gao.

About 130,000 people are believed to have been displaced by the conflict, many of them crossing into neighbouring Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

Contributor

Celeste Hicks

The GuardianTramp

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