Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Islamic paradise of Mali: Soldiers attack presidential palace in mutiny

Civilians cheer as mutinous soldiers drive past, in front of a backdrop of burning tires, in Bamako, Mali Wednesday March 21, 2012. Gunshots could still be heard in the Malian capital late Wednesday, hours after angry troops started a mutiny at a military base near the presidential palace. Soldiers stormed the offices of the state broadcaster, yanking both TV and radio off the air. (AP Photo)
BAMAKO (Reuters) - Mutinous soldiers attacked Mali's presidential palace on Wednesday in an apparent coup attempt in the West African country, defense ministry and diplomatic sources said.

Heavy weapons fire rang out in the capital Bamako and the mutineers, angry at the government's handling of a rebellion in the Sahara desert north, forced the state broadcaster off air after seizing parts of the capital Bamako.

"We now know it is a coup d'etat that they are attempting," a defense ministry official said, asking not to be named. A diplomat confirmed the clashes at the presidential palace.

Anger has been growing within the army at the handling of a Tuareg-led rebellion that has killed dozens of people and forced nearly 200,000 civilians to flee their homes.

While soldiers had been urging the government to provide better weapons to fight the rebels, bolstered by fighters who had fought in Libya's civil war, one of the mutineers said they now wanted to oust President Amadou Toumani Toure.

"He needs to leave power, that is all. The movement will only stop with the taking of the palace," said the sergeant, who asked not to be named.