Gadhafi remnants fuel coup in Mali

Gadhafi remnants fuel coup in Mali

Gadhafi remnants fuel coup in Mali

Civilians cheer as mutinous soldiers drive past, in front of a backdrop of burning tires, in Bamako on March 21. Soldiers stormed the offices of the state broadcaster. AP photo

Soldiers announced yesterday they have seized control of Mali due to the government’s weak response to an insurgency that blossomed in north Mali when fighters, who had supported Libya’s ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi, returned home from Libya heavily armed.

On national television, around 20 soldiers announced that the country is under the control of the military’s National Committee for the Reestablishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State (CNRDR). They said they were suspending constitution and dissolving the institutions.

Tuaregs blamed

The soldiers complained that the civilian government had not done enough to combat a rebellion by ethnic Tuareg separatists who want to carve out a homeland in the Sahara region. The Tuaregs, a traditionally nomadic people spread across the Sahara Desert, have risen up against the central government in Mali several times since the country’s independence from France in 1960. Claiming to represent the nation’s defense forces, the group’s spokesman, identified on-screen as Lieutenant Amadou Konare, said the junta “solemnly commits to restore power to a democratically-elected president as soon as national unity and territorial integrity are re-established.”

Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure, who was forced to flee his palace during an overnight coup, is well and in a safe location, a military source said. The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for calm and for grievances to be settled democratically. West Africa regional bloc ECOWAS condemned “the misguided actions of the mutineers.” The Tuareg uprising that began in mid-January is being fueled by arms leftover from the civil war in Libya. Tens of thousands of people have fled the north, and refugees have spilled over into four of the countries neighboring Mali due to the uprising.

Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.