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Shooting in capital as Mali junta hunts 'mercenaries'

By Vision Reporter

Added 2nd May 2012 09:39 PM

BAMAKO - Gunfire erupted in Mali's capital Bamako on Wednesday in the third day of clashes between the military junta and soldiers loyal to the ousted president, forcing residents to flee for cover, witnesses said.

BAMAKO - Gunfire erupted in Mali's capital Bamako on Wednesday in the third day of clashes between the military junta and soldiers loyal to the ousted president, forcing residents to flee for cover, witnesses said.

 BAMAKO - Gunfire erupted in Mali's capital Bamako on Wednesday in the third day of clashes between the military junta and soldiers loyal to the ousted president, forcing residents to flee for cover, witnesses said.

A Malian security source told Reuters the junta's troops were asking people to leave their buildings as they searched for remaining loyalist fighters, including suspected foreign mercenaries, who had mounted a counter-coup attempt.

"The evacuation is meant to help the work of the soldiers who are in the process of sweeping the city in search of mercenaries that have infiltrated the population," the source said, asking not to be named.

Shooting was heard from the direction of the state broadcaster building, scene of some of the heaviest fighting since Monday but which has remained under the junta's control. A Reuters witness said firing also broke out in downtown Bamako, where administrative buildings were being evacuated and residents were fleeing on foot and by car.

"We're looking for red berets," yelled a junta soldier, before he fired his rifle into the air.

Members of the red beret presidential guard unit attacked important sites in and around Bamako late on Monday in an apparent attempt to unseat the military junta that has been in power since a coup on March 22.

At least 27 people were killed in the clashes, according to medical sources and Reuters witnesses, but fighting died down by Tuesday afternoon when junta soldiers overran the presidential guard barracks in the capital.

Junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo has said the counter-coup attempt was backed by foreign fighters, and state television showed images on Wednesday of captured soldiers holding up Burkinabe and Ivorian identification cards.

Regional bloc ECOWAS, which has said it plans to send a force of 3,000 or more troops to Mali to help restore constitutional order, denied on Tuesday rumours it had sent commandos to assist the presidential guard.

The coup, which derailed an April election meant to replace President Amadou Toumani Toure, has been internationally condemned and the renewed clashes marked a serious setback for early efforts to restore order.

Heads of state from ECOWAS are due to meet in Dakar on Thursday to discuss the situation in Mali, as well as in Guinea-Bissau, which also suffered a recent coup.

Five members of Mali's junta have also flown to Burkina Faso to meet President Blaise Campaore, who has taken on a regional mediator role, a Burkinabe government source said.

 

The political turmoil in Mali coincides with a Tuareg and Islamist rebel uprising in the vast northern desert that has split the country in two and muddied regional efforts to restore stability to the gold producer nation.

Shooting in capital as Mali junta hunts ''mercenaries''

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