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Mali junta says it thwarted coup attempt

Mali's military junta on Monday said it thwarted an attempted coup last week led by army officers and supported by an unnamed Western state.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 22, 2020 Colonel Assimi Goita (C), President of CNSP (National Committee for the Salvation of People) addresses to the press during the ceremony of the 60th anniversary of Mali’s independence in Bamako, one day after announcing that the transitional presidency would be assigned to a retired colonel, Bah Ndaw, 70 years, ephemeral Minister of Defence in 2014. – Malian officers upset with a government reshuffle have detained the president and prime minister at an army camp outside the capital, triggering broad international condemnation and demands for their immediate release. President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane lead an interim government that was installed under the threat of regional sanctions following a putsch in August, and the detentions on May 24, 2021 raised fears of a second coup. Briefly reached by phone before the line cut, Prime Minister Ouane told AFP that soldiers affiliated with interim Vice President Colonel Assimi Goita “came to get him”. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

A colonel reputed to be close to Mali’s ruling junta has been arrested following what the authorities describe as an attempted coup, two sources said on Tuesday.

The junta late Monday announced that last week it had thwarted a would-be putsch led by army officers and “supported by a Western state.”

The mysterious episode marks the latest bout of turbulence in the West African country, which has experienced two coups in less than two years.

An official at the defence ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP: “Colonel (Amadou) Keita is among the arrested jihadists.”

Keita is not well-known publicly, but is reputed to have been among army officers who seized power in August 2020, later strengthening their grip in a second coup in May the following year.

He is one of the 120 members of the National Transition Council (CNT) — a legislature appointed by the junta to pass laws pending a declared handback to civilian rule.

Keita is also said to be close to the CNT’s president, Colonel Malick Diaw, who is one of the most influential figures in the junta led by strongman Colonel Assimi Goita.

“We have had no news of Colonel Amadou Keita since the 12th,” a close relative of his told AFP, also requesting anonymity.

“Two of his comrades have told us that he has been arrested.”

The relative gave no reasons for Keita’s disappearance.

According to the junta’s statement read on state television late Monday, the coup bid happened on the night of May 11.

Officers and junior officers were involved and the attempt had the backing of a Western state, the communique said, without naming that country.

It gave no further details about what happened and did not put forward any evidence, but said arrests had been made.

The military source told AFP Tuesday said that around 12 people had been detained.

One of the poorest and most volatile countries in the world, Mali is battling a decade-old jihadist revolt which began with a regional insurrection and then spread to Niger and Burkina Faso.

Thousands of civilians and soldiers have died, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

Anger at the government’s failure to roll back the threat led to protests in 2020, culminating in the ouster of the elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

The country’s relationship with France — the former colonial power and its closest ally in the fight against the jihadists — last year went on a downward spiral.

French troops are pulling out of Mali after the junta wove close ties with Russia, bringing in military support that France says are Russian mercenaries.

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