Mali soldiers claim to have overthrown government
REPORTING FROM KANO, NIGERIA -- After fighting in Bamako, Mali's capital, a group of Malian soldiers calling themselves the National Committee for the Establishment of Democracy appeared on state television early Thursday claiming to have ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure for "incompetence."
The coup came just a month before the country was due for elections, when Toure was to stand down. The trigger appeared to be anger in the military over the government's inability to handle a rebellion by a Tuareg militia in the north of the country.
A spokesman for the soldiers, Lt. Amadou Konare, appeared on state television and informed the country that the government and other institutions of power had been dissolved.
The fate of the president was not known, and several government ministers were arrested, according to news agency reports.
"The National Committee for the Establishment of Democracy (CNRDR) representing all the elements of the armed forces, defensive forces and security forces has decided to assume its responsibilities and end the incompetent and disavowed regime of Amadou Toumani Toure," Konare said on TV, reading from a statement.
"All the institutions of the republic are dissolved until further notice."
He said the aim was not to seize power but to hold democratic elections once the Tuareg rebellion was crushed.
"We solemnly swear to return power to a democratically elected president as soon as national unity and territorial integrity are established," Konare said.
The coup leader was a captain, Amadou Sanago, news agencies reported.
The military has complained about the inadequacy of its weapons to defeat the Tuareg rebellion in the north. Many Tuareg fighters who were in Libya and allied to its former leader, Moammar Kadafi, fled to Mali after his fall. In January, Tuareg rebels led attacks on military bases in northern Mali, winning control of several towns.
Konare said the coup was necessary because of a "lack of adequate material to defend the nation."
The trouble began Wednesday morning after the country's defense minister, Gen. Sadio Gassama, visited a military camp in Bamako, sparking protests. Soldiers stoned the minister's car as he left the scene.
-- Robyn Dixon
Photo: Civilians cheer as mutinous soldiers drive past in Bamako, Mali, on Wednesday. Credit: Harouna Traore / Associated Press