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Ecowas leaders to discuss Mali amid continued tension in Bamako

Reuters/Luc Gnago

West African leaders are to discuss the turmoil in crisis-hit Mali at a summit in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, on Thursday after soldiers who overthrew an elected government in March defeated a counter-coup this week. 

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The situation in Mali’s capital, Bamako, remains tense after gunfire was again heard in the city on Wednesday, two days after bloody clashes at the state TV and radio station, the airport and the junta troops' headquarters left at least 22 people dead.

An armoured car fired into the air sparking panic, with banks closing and civil servants in several ministries fleeing their offices.

Soldiers led by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo on 22 March ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure weeks before scheduled elections, triggering chaos and a power vacuum that allowed rebel forces to take over northern Mali.

The Economic Community of West African States,Ecowas, has since mediated a return to interim civilian rule, and the junta handed power to a transitional government in April, although its troops remain highly visible.

Interim Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra said in a televised statement: "We have witnessed an attempt to destabilise the country these last 48 hours, which resulted in a temporary, not yet complete, victory for our army and our security forces.

"There are still some civilian and armed elements on the loose, which justifies the massive presence of our armed and security forces in the city of Bamako."

He said there was "a persistence... in attempts to destabilise the country" but told citizens: "Stay calm, there is no reason to panic."

The United Nations Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, condemned the latest violence, which he said "could only serve to complicate an already difficult transition".

Burkina Faso's Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole, whose country has played a key role in negotiations with the coup leaders, said the offensive launched Monday night was an "unfortunate incident." But it "does not undermine the institutions. The interim president is still in place, the institutions remain in place," he said.

 

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