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Coup Attempt Thrwarts in Mali, State Radio Reports

July 15, 1991

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) _ Troops loyal to Lt. Col. Toumani Toure today thwarted an attempt to overthrow his transitional government, which took power in this West African desert nation in a March coup, state radio said.

Toure told reporters all dissident troops involved in the plot had been arrested. But the state radio said the situation in the capital was confused.

Earlier in the day there were rumors that dissident soldiers had gathered at Kati, a town several miles from the capital, and were preparing to march on the city. The reports could not be checked.

The radio said tens of thousands of people took to the streets to show support for Toure, who ousted Gen. Moussa Traore in March and ended 22 years of military dictatorship and one-party rule.

Toure called reporters to the presidential palace and said the leader of coup attempt, Commandant Lamine Diabira, was arrested Sunday night. Diabira was minister of territorial administration.

He said other arrests had continued early today, but did not say how many dissident soldiers were involved.

A Defense Ministry communique said eight officers were arrested to foil ″the beginning of an uprising by misguided elements ... because there are a few nostalgic people who wanted to disturb the peace.″

Toure said: ″It is all over and the authorities have totally mastered the situation.″

After taking power, Toure set up a council of military officers and civilians to govern until a national conference scheduled for July 29 drafts a new constitution and organizes free elections.

The March coup followed days of pro-democracy protests and riots in which soldiers fired at unarmed demonstrators.

At least 148 civilians were killed by soldiers before the coup and 59 people were reported killed afterward. Many of the dead were looters, but they included at least two Traore aides burned to death by protesters.

Diabira was formerly governor of the troubled northern region of Timbuctu, where Tuareg rebels often clash with government troops.

Amnesty International has urged the new government to set up an independent inquiry into the killings of 36 civilians in Timbuctu province in May. They included a local community leader and his eight brothers apparently shot dead by government soldiers in reprisal for attacks by Tuareg rebels.

Update hourly