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Mutinous troops in Mali seize country’s president and several government ministers

Fears of a coup in Mali are growing after mutinous troops today seized the country’s president and several government ministers, sparking condemnation by UN chiefs.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 75, was seized in a dramatic escalation of a months-long crisis in the fragile West African country.

Prime Minister Boubou Cisse has also been seized, say officials.

United Nations head Antonio Guterres today demanded ‘the immediate and unconditional release’ of Mr Keita and members of his government.

Fears of a coup in Mali are growing after mutinous troops today seized the country’s president and several government ministers, sparking condemnation by UN chiefs

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 75, was seized in a dramatic escalation of a months-long crisis in the fragile West African country

Prime Minister Boubou Cisse has also been seized, according to reports

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 75, was seized in a dramatic escalation of a months-long crisis in the fragile West African country. Prime Minister Boubou Cisse has also been seized, according to reports.

Malian troops and citizens gathered outside the private residence of Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in Bamako, Mali today

Malian troops and citizens gathered outside the private residence of Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in Bamako, Mali today

Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for Mr Guterres, said: ‘The secretary-general strongly condemns these actions and calls for the immediate restoration of constitutional order and rule of law in Mali.

‘To this end, he demands the immediate and unconditional release of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and members of his cabinet.’ 

Guterres is following the unfolding developments in the capital Bamako ‘with deep concern,’ Dujarric added.

‘The secretary-general reiterates his calls for a negotiated solution and peaceful resolution of their differences.

‘The secretary-general urges all stakeholders, particularly the defence and security forces, to exercise maximum restraint and uphold the human rights and individual freedoms of all Malians,’ the spokesman said. 

Crowds had today gathered in the city centre to demand Keita's resignation and cheered the rebels as they made their way to the 75-year-old's official residence

Crowds had today gathered in the city centre to demand Keita’s resignation and cheered the rebels as they made their way to the 75-year-old’s official residence

Boubou Doucoure, who works as Cisse's director of communications, confirmed Keita and Cisse had been detained and had been driven in armoured vehicles to an army base in the town of Kati, about ten miles away. Pictured: People celebrate on the streets of Bamako in Mali

Boubou Doucoure, who works as Cisse’s director of communications, confirmed Keita and Cisse had been detained and had been driven in armoured vehicles to an army base in the town of Kati, about ten miles away. Pictured: People celebrate on the streets of Bamako in Mali

United Nations head Antonio Guterres today demanded 'the immediate and unconditional release' of Mr Keita and members of his government.

United Nations head Antonio Guterres today demanded ‘the immediate and unconditional release’ of Mr Keita and members of his government.

The sudden mutiny marked a dramatic escalation of a months-long crisis in the fragile West African country, previously a French colony.

Both the UN and France had spent  more than seven years trying to stabilise the country since a coup in 2012 allowed an Islamic insurgency to take hold in Mali.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Mali’s controversial president 

Political veteran Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 75, was elected as president in a landslide election in 2013 and was re-elected in 2018.

Keita had campaigned as a unifying figure in his fractured country, belying his tough-talking reputation. 

But he has been left flailing by jihadist and inter-ethnic violence that has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

Snail-paced political reforms, a flagging economy, decrepit public services and schools and a widely shared perception of government corruption have also fed anti-Keita sentiment, driving tens of thousands of protesters into the streets.

The 75-year-old head of state has been able, until now, to shrug off the criticism of a divided opposition, partly relying on support from the international community which has seen him as a bulwark against the jihadist threat.

But the coronavirus pandemic and the kidnapping of opposition leader Soumaila Cisse, who he defeated in at March 2018 election, by jihadists in March this year, made severe inroads into Keita’s standing.  

Following today’s incident, there was no immediate comment from the soldiers, who hail from the very same military barracks in Kati where an earlier coup originated more than eight years ago.

However one rebel leader, who requested anonymity, said: ‘We can tell you that the president and the prime minister are under our control’ after they were ‘arrested’ at Keita’s residence in the capital Bamako.

Another later added that the incident was ‘not a military coup but a popular insurrection’.

Nouhoum Togo, spokesman for the M5-RFP coalition, who have been protesting Keita’s presidency, said: ‘He did not want to listen to his people. We even proposed an alternative but he responded with killings.’

Crowds had today gathered in the city centre to demand Keita’s resignation and  cheered the rebels as they made their way to the 75-year-old’s official residence. 

Boubou Doucoure, who works as Cisse’s director of communications, confirmed Keita and Cisse had been detained and had been driven in armoured vehicles to an army base in the town of Kati, about ten miles away.

The United Nations Security Council is due to hold emergency talks on the crisis on Wednesday afternoon, diplomats in New York said.

The meeting was requested by France and Niger and will take place behind closed doors, a UN diplomat said on condition of anonymity.  

Today’s mutiny mirrors the events leading up to the 2012 coup, which ultimately unleashed years of chaos in Mali when the ensuing power vacuum allowed Islamic extremists to seize control of northern towns.

Ultimately a French-led military operation ousted the jihadists but they regrouped and then expanded their reach during Mr Keita’s presidency into central Mali.

On March 21, 2012, a similar mutiny erupted at the Kati military camp as rank-and-file soldiers began rioting and then broke into the camp’s armoury.

After grabbing weapons they later headed for the seat of government, led by then Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo.

Capt Sanogo was later forced to hand over power to a civilian transitional government that then organised the election Mr Keita won.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk