Mali Leader Thwarts Coup Attempt by Friend
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) _ Troops loyal to Lt. Col. Toumani Toure on Monday thwarted an attempt to overthrow his transitional government. The coup leader was described as a friend of Toure’s who did not want the military to surrender power.
After the plot was put down, reportedly swiftly and without bloodshed, tens of thousands of people poured into the streets in a show of support for Toure.
Toure’s popular coup in March ousted Gen. Moussa Traore and ended 22 years of military dictatorship and one-party rule in this West African desert nation.
After the March coup, Toure set up a council of military officers and civilians to govern until a national conference drafts a democratic constitution and organizes free elections. The conference is to begin July 29.
The March coup followed days of rioting provoked by troops who fired at unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators. At least 148 civilians were killed by soldiers before the coup, and 59 people reportedly died afterward, including at least two Traore aides burned to death by protesters.
Toure told reporters Monday’s coup attempt was planned by Interior Minister Lamine Diabira, who was arrested Sunday night. Toure said Diabira opposed the plans to surrender power to a democratically elected civilian government.
The Mali state news agency said the two men were close friends.
A Defense Ministry communique said eight other officers were arrested.
Sources said some dissident soldiers at Mali’s main military base in Kati, several miles from Bamako, were prepared to march on the capital but were dissuaded by news of the plotters’ arrests. The sources agreed to discuss the situation on condition they not be identified.
The Defense Ministry said rumors that the coup plotters had helped Traore escape were false. It said Traore was still in custody and would be tried for murder and stealing state funds.
Diabira was formerly governor of the ethnically troubled northern region of Timbuctu, where Tuareg rebels often clash with government troops.
Amnesty International has urged the government to set up an independent inquiry into the killings of 36 civilians in Timbuctu province in May.
The international aid group CARE issued a statement in New York on Monday saying 90,000 people were in danger of starving in northern Mali. It blamed the political unrest coupled with a severe drought caused by insufficient rain for two years in this arid nation of 8 million people.