Mali tuaregs advance amid post-coup chaos

Mali tuaregs advance amid post-coup chaos

Mali tuaregs advance amid post-coup chaos

Junta leader Sanogo (R) meets with Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Bassole (L). AP photo

Tuaregs tightened their grip on northern Mali following the country’s coup, seizing control of a key city yesterday and encircling the historic desert town of Timbuktu.

“The two (military) camps of Gao have fallen into the hands of the different rebel groups,” an aide to the regional governor told Agence France-Presse by telephone, referring to the city that served as army headquarters for the entire northern region. Tuareg rebels confirmed they had taken control of Gao and said they had encircled Timbuktu, the last city in Mali’s north not to fall to their sweeping advance.

As rebels advanced, Mali’s coup leader pledged to re-establish from yesterday the West African country’s 1992 constitution and its state institutions, and to organize a transfer of power back to civilians.

He did not specify the duration of the transition. The brief statement was read to journalists by Captain Amadou Sanogo at his army barracks just outside the capital Bamako. Coup leaders have said they seized power because the government had not done enough to stem the Tuareg rebellion rekindled in January.

With Mali threatening to unravel, the current chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara, said the regional bloc had put 2,000 troops “on alert,” ready to intervene if necessary. On March 31 junta members hinted they were ready for compromise, announcing after talks with Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, the official mediator in the crisis, that they would make new proposals for a transition to civilian rule, according to Reuters.

Following the coup, the EU, the U.S. and other Western powers suspended hundreds of millions of dollars of support for landlocked Mali.