Gunfire Near Mali’s Capital Raises Fears of Mutiny or Coup

Gunfire Near Mali’s Capital Raises Fears of Mutiny or Coup

Gunfire Near Mali’s Capital Raises Fears of Mutiny or Coup

Gunfire Near Mali’s Capital Raises Fears of Mutiny or Coup

DAKAR, Senegal — Reports of gunfire in a military camp in Mali have raised fears that a mutiny or coup attempt is underway to unseat the West African nation’s president, who has been the subject of a swelling protest movement.

Gunfire was heard at Kati military camp, 10 miles north of the capital, Bamako, prompting alerts from the embassies of at least two European nations.

The reports of turmoil came in the wake of a growing protest movement driven by charges that the government of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has not done enough to address the corruption and bloodshed that have plagued the country for eight years.

Hundreds of protesters gathered at Bamako’s Independence Square, blowing vuvuzelas and revving motorcycles in what appeared to be a spontaneous demonstration.

“Goodbye, I.B.K.,” read a placard, using Mr. Keita’s nickname. “Long live Mali.”

An official said that he saw soldiers arrive in pickup trucks and arrest the finance minister in his office on Tuesday morning, and local media reported that the president of the national assembly was taken from his home.

The Norwegian ambassador sent out a message saying there had been warnings of a mutiny in the armed forces, and the French Embassy posted a message on Twitter warning people to stay at home.

“Given the tensions reported this morning, August 18, in Kati and Bamako, we urgently recommend that you stay at home,” read the post.

Mali has been in crisis since 2012, when rebels and jihadists took control of the country’s north. Despite the intervention of foreign forces and United Nations peacekeepers, the unrest has spread.

And accusations that President Keita stole a parliamentary election in March has also thrown Bamako into turmoil.

Led by a coalition of politicians, civil society leaders and a popular imam, Mahmoud Dicko, Malians have risen up to demand Mr. Keita’s resignation, descending by the thousands onto Bamako’s streets. In mid June, security forced shot and killed at least 11 protesters in violence that further convulsed the protest movement.

The turmoil has marked a sharp change in fortunes for the once-popular president, who won a landslide election in 2013 in the wake of a military coup.

Attempts at mediation by regional leaders, led by the former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, have so far failed to dampen the protest movement.

Peter Pham, U.S. special envoy for the Sahel region, said in a post on Twitter: “The US opposes any extra-constitutional change of government, whether by those on the streets or by the defense and security forces.”

There is no known connection between the protest movement and the arrests and gunfire on Tuesday morning. Analysts suggested that tensions had been mounting in the Malian military for several weeks.

Cheick Amadou Diouara contributed reporting from Gao, Mali.




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