BAMAKO: Mutineering soldiers say they have detained Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse, AFP reported on Tuesday evening.
Details remain unclear, but according to witnesses and officials, soldiers seized an important army base in the town of Kati, near the capital Bamako, on Tuesday morning.
“We can tell you that the president and the prime minister are under our control,” the leader, who requested anonymity, told AFP.
He added that the pair had been “arrested” at Keita’s residence in the capital Bamako.
Another military official, who also declined to be named, said the president and prime minister were in an armoured vehicle en route to Kati.
It came just hours after Mr Cisse called for “fraternal dialogue” with the soldiers who have triggered fears of a coup attempt.
“The government is calling for calm and makes itself available … to engage in fraternal dialogue in order to remove all misunderstandings,” he said in a statement.
The prime minister also admitted that the soldiers may have “legitimate frustrations”.
France condemned “in the strongest terms” what it described as the mutiny launched by soldiers in crisis-torn Mali.
“France has become aware of the mutiny that has taken place today in Kati, Mali. It condemns in the strongest terms this serious event,” Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said in a statement that also urged the soldiers to return to their barracks “without delay”.
The developments on Tuesday bore a resemblance to the events leading up to the 2012 military coup, which led to years of chaos in Mali.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, elcted in 2013, is facing mounting pressure to step down as his unpopularity grows.
Regional mediators urged him to share power in a unity government but those overtures were swiftly rejected by opposition leaders, who said they would not stop short of Mr Keita’s removal.
His government has been criticised for how it is handling the militant insurgency engulfing the country, which was once praised as a model of democracy in the region.