A group of Malian soldiers shot their guns in the air outside of Bamako on Tuesday and began detaining senior military officials in the garrison town of Kati, in what appears to be a mutiny. Mutiny leaders now claim President Keita and senior government officials have been arrested.
Update 17h21 UT:
Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has been reportedly arrested on Tuesday by mutinous soldiers in the capital Bamako.
French President Emmanuel Macron has been in discussion with West African leaders, urging further mediation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), according to the office of the presidency.
While the ringleaders of this action were not immediately known, many feared that this mutiny would turn into a repeat of the 2012 military coup d'etat.
“Officials are being arrested — it's total confusion,” according to an officer at Mali's Ministry of Internal Security, who spoke to journalists and did not want to be identified.
In a statement released by Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, France condemned the mutiny and has urged the soldiers to return to barracks,
Government workers reportedly fled their offices in Bamako, as armed men went around to offices, rounding up officials, including Finance Minister Abdoulaye Daffe.
There was no information confirming the whereabouts of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Witnesses saw armoured cars and military vehicles in Kati which is 15 kilometres from the capital.
"Given the tensions reported this morning, August 18 in Kati and Bamako, it is strongly recommended to stay at home," the embassy said on Twitter.
Long standing frustration in Mali's military
The soldiers’ alleged frustration – although their reasoning for this action is still unknown-- is amidst a political crisis that has gripped the country for the past two months.
"This morning, angry soldiers took up arms at the Kati camp and fired in the air. There were many of them and very nervous," a doctor at Kati hospital told AFP.
A Malian defense ministry source said that they are closely monitoring the situation, but denied that this action was a “mutiny”.
"Military hierarchy has come into contact with the troops, we will make an official statement during the day,"
Calls for the president to go
This has happened amongst a backdrop of political turmoil, as the opposition are mounting new demonstrations, calling for President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta to step down.
The opposition Mouvement du 5 Juin-Rassemblement des Forces patriotiques du Mali (M5-RFP), is a grouping of various members of civil society, opposition parties, unions and religious leaders, and have been organizing large demonstrations against the Keita government.
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The protests ramped up after the Constitutional Court invalidated 30 legislative election results, including a third in favour of Keita.
However, a peaceful demonstration on 10 July erupted in three days of unrest, where 23 were killed and more than 150 injured, according to the opposition. Prime minister Boubou Cissé said 11 died, while the UN reported 14 protesters killed.
The group has also refused to meet with a West Africa States mediator, former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan.