Official: Coup d'etat underway in Mali

(CBS/AP) BAMAKO, Mali - Soldiers on Wednesday stormed the state TV and radio station in the Malian capital, attacked the presidential palace, and there are reports of a mutiny at a base in the strategic town of Gao in the north.

A defense ministry official told the BBC that a coup d’etat was under way, but the president of Mali reportedly countered those claims Wednesday.

The CIA swears that they are not involved this time. :wink:

Find that hard to believe - we all know that the CIA is behind all nefarious activities around the world.


The UN Security Council has condemned the coup and is calling for the troops to return to their barracks, for the safety and security of the president, and for the restoration of democracy.

The coup took place because many in the military feel they are being outgunned by the rebels in the north, and unable to effectively defend their country. However, the coup has resulted in large gains by the rebels.

The MNLA rebels were approaching towns in the desert north, apparently taking advantage of the confusion created by a coup attempt in the capital Bamako by low-ranking soldiers angry at the government’s handling of the uprising.

A Malian officer in the northern town of Kidal said rebels had occupied the military camp in Anefis, 100 km (60 miles) to the southwest, after government forces withdrew.

“The army has pulled back to Gao,” a source in Timbuktu, another main town in the north, told Reuters, asking not to be named. “There is no longer any military leadership. (The rebels) will take the towns in the north,” he said.,0,7724023.story

The collapse of Gaddhafi’s army in Libya has led to this military situation. Quoting from a news article published six weeks ago:

Hundreds of Tuareg rebels, heavily armed courtesy of Colonel Qaddafi’s extensive arsenal, have stormed towns in Mali’s northern desert in recent weeks, in one of the most significant regional shock waves to emanate directly from the colonel’s fall.

After fighting for Colonel Qaddafi as he struggled to stay in power, the Tuaregs helped themselves to a considerable quantity of sophisticated weaponry before returning to Mali. When they got here, they reinvigorated a longstanding rebellion and blossomed into a major challenge for this impoverished desert nation, an important American ally against the regional Al Qaeda franchise.

The Tuaregs hoisted their rebel flag in the sandy northern towns, shelled military installations, announced the “liberation” of the area and shouted “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” according to local officials. Their sudden strength has deeply surprised a Malian Army accustomed to fighting wispy turbaned fighters wielding only Kalashnikov rifles.

The weaponry of the rebels is said to include anti-tank weapons, mortars, heavy machine guns, and anti-aircraft weaponry.

News Update

Mali coup leader seeks help as rebels take strategic town

Mali’s junta leader appealed for outside help to secure the West African country after separatist Tuareg rebels took the strategic northern town of Kidal on Friday in their biggest victory yet.

Arms spilling out of Libya from last year’s conflict have bolstered a northern rebellion in Mali. President Amadou Toumani Toure was facing rising unpopularity over his failure to halt the rebellion before he was toppled in last week’s coup.

But the coup has if anything emboldened the rebels, while the coup leaders have been internationally condemned - including by neighbors which on Thursday gave them 72 hours to surrender power or see Mali’s borders and bank funding shut off.

The capital city of Mali, Bamako, as well as the main garrison town of Gao, are in peril. The coalition of West African countries, ECOWAS, is said to be considering sending 2000 troops.

Whether the troops are sent may depend on the coup leaders willingness to give up power.


Reports are that Mali troops are abandoning Gao and streaming towards the capital city.

Civilian and local government sources said dozens of army vehicles streamed out of the main army camps around Goa, heading south towards the capital Bamako some 1,000 km (600 miles) away.

If rebels go on to fully take Gao and target Timbuktu, the last big northern centre, their goal of securing a desert territory bigger than France will be in their grasp.

The defeat at the hands of the heavily armed rebels piled pressure on Mali’s new junta leaders who have until midnight on Sunday to start handing back power or expose their land-locked West African country to economic suffocation by neighbors threatening to shut its borders.

Some information about the rebels

The Tuareg rebels that have seized control of much of the north are a cloudy amalgam of different factions. They include a secular group known as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, or NMLA, whose stated aim is to carve out a Tuareg homeland in the north. There is also an Islamic faction which wants to impose Sharia law in the north.

Already there are signs of disunity among the rebels. A man who fled Kidal said the Islamist rebels had taken down all the flags of the NMLA in that city. He said they were going around demanding that shopkeepers take down posters considered to reflect Western culture. A hairdresser said he was forced to remove photos of unveiled women that he displayed to show different hairstyles. The resident spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals against family members still in Kidal.

The vitriolic falling out between ag Ghali and the MNLA goes some way to illustrating the complicated tapestry of interests and tensions within the Tuareg rebellion, a topic that swam into focus first after weaponry from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s looted arsenals flooded into the Sahara last year. With thousands of expatriate Tuaregs who worked for Gaddafi’s military forced to flee Libya amid the revolutionary chaos, much of the hardware is thought to have made its way to northern Mali. Desolate and unpoliceable, this swathe of desert and rocky scrub is also home to the regional terror franchise, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. That combination set alarm bells ringing. What, exactly, was the relationship between Tuareg fighters, with access to large quantities of heavy weaponry, and AQIM?

The truth, of course, is complicated. With an eye to U.S. military assistance, economic aid, international sympathy, the Malian government has much to gain by tarring the MNLA with the al-Qaeda brush — but the links are tenuous. True, over the years al-Qaeda emirs “are said to have worked to create some local relationships, both through marriage and transactions with some segments of local Tuareg and Arab communities,” explains Andrew Lebovich, an analyst with the Navanti Group who focuses on Sahelian issues. But “AQIM itself has yet to claim a role in the [Tuareg rebellion], and no overt evidence has been produced to show an AQIM role in the fighting in the north.”,8599,2110673,00.html?xid=gonewsedit

The UN Security Council, on Wednesday, called for an immediate ceasefire and return to democracy. In response, the secular rebels who control the northern half of Mali declared an immediate halt to military operations. However, the military junta which seized control of southern Mali showed no readiness to surrender power.

At this point, the rebel alliance faces two immediate difficulties. One is that the two major factions have pposing visions of the new nation. The Islamist group, Ansar Dine, has declared Sharia law in Timbuktu (one of the three major cities in northern Mali.) The forces of the secular rebel group, MNLA, have been driven for the city but not from the major cities of Gao or Kidal. However, this hasn’t stopped Islamists in those two cities from ransacking buildings which are seen as anti-Islamic e.g. bars, churches, aid organizations. MNLA would like to create a separate country in the north. Ansar Dine, however, would like to control all of Mali.

The other immediate problem is that ECOWAS, the coalition of West African nations, has already stated that it rejects the partition of Mali and demands a return to democratic rule This may be, in part, because many of those countries face their own North-South tensions, as well as histories of military coups. ECOWAS has a military force on alert and threatened to intervene. However, they seem unlikely to invade to depose the junta. And they also seem unlikely to intervene so long as the junta is in power.

ECOWAS, however, imposed stringent economic sanctions on Mali, effectively closing trade to the landlocked nation. This includes the supply of all petroleum fuels such as gasoline or diesel. Mali’s assets in the central bank have been frozen, preventing the government from meeting financial obligations such as the wages of government workers, including soldiers.

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