UPDATES WITH ARREST OF PRESIDENT, PREMIER, CONDEMNATION FROM HEAD OF AFRICAN UNION COMMISSION; CHANGES HEADLINE, DECK, LEDE
By Felix Tih
ANKARA (AA) – Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and several officials were arrested by mutinying soldiers on Tuesday, local media reported.
Keita and Cisse were taken to the Kati military camp, located 15 kilometers (9 miles) northwest of the capital Bamako, at around 4.30 p.m. local time (1630 GMT), according to Journal du Mali.
Earlier, it was reported that gunshots were heard at the military camp, while military trucks were also seen on the road heading toward the capital. The military reportedly blocked the road from the town of Kati to Bamako, and businesses and offices were also closed.
Sources told online newspaper MaliActu that a number of officials, including the finance minister, speaker of the national assembly, and several other prominent figures, were also arrested by unidentified gunmen.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairman of the African Union Commission, condemned the arrests.
“I strongly condemn the arrest of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the Prime Minister and other members of the Malian Government and call for their immediate release,” Mahamat said in a Twitter post.
“I strongly condemn any attempt at anti-constitutional change and call on the mutineers to cease all use of violence and respect for republican institutions,” he added.
Mali has been rocked by protests for several months as demonstrators call for the resignation of President Keita.
On social media posts, French and Belgian embassies in Mali urged their citizens to limit their movement given the tense situation in Bamako at the moment.
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali issued a message recommending to the UN personnel "to avoid the Kati area and all unnecessary road movements in Bamako until further notice," MaliActu reported.
The house of Justice Minister Kassoum Tapo was set on fire and vandalized by young demonstrators in Bamako on Tuesday, according to International Security and Conflict Research.
The military mutiny comes at a time when, for several months, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been undertaking initiatives and deploying mediation efforts between all the Malian parties, the West African body said in a statement on Tuesday.
''ECOWAS calls on the military to return to their barracks without delay, asking all Malian stakeholders to prioritize dialogue to resolve the crisis facing their country.
''ECOWAS reiterates its firm opposition to any unconstitutional political change and invites the military to remain in a republican posture,'' it said.
Last month the head of the African Union Commission urged calm, continued dialogue and negotiations for the diligent implementation of consensual solutions to preserve peace, stability, and social cohesion in Mali.
Tensions erupted in Mali in 2012 following a failed coup and a Tuareg rebellion that ultimately allowed al-Qaeda-linked militant groups to take over the northern half of the country.