Gunfire heard at Mali army base, warnings of possible mutiny
Soldiers have taken up arms near Mali’s capital and staged an apparent mutiny amid an ongoing political crisis in the country.
The soldiers on Tuesday fired their guns into the air in the base in Kati, a garrison town some 15km (nine miles) from Bamako, while witnesses said armoured tanks and military vehicles could be seen on its streets, according to media reports.
Some senior government ministers and army officers were also reportedly under arrest but it was not clear by whom.
It was also not immediately clear who was behind the unrest or where embattled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita – who has faced weeks of opposition protests calling for his departure – was when it erupted. Reports said he had been taken to a safe location.
In a statement, the West African bloc ECOWAS urged the soldiers “to return to their barracks without delay”.
“This mutiny comes at a time when, for several months now, ECOWAS has been taking initiatives and conducting mediation efforts with all the Malian parties,” the bloc said in a statement.
Opposition supporters react to the news of a possible mutiny of soldiers in the military base in Kati, outside the capital Bamako, at Independence Square in Bamako, Mali August 18, 2020. The sign read
Opposition supporters react to the news of a possible mutiny of soldiers in the military base in Kati. The sign reads: ‘Down with France and its governor’ [Rey Byhre/Reuters]
Speaking from Bamako, journalist Mohamed Salah told Al Jazeera that the situation in Kati was “very confusing”, with reports of soldiers putting up barricades in the town and detaining officials.
In Bamako, meanwhile, opposition protesters gathered at Independence Square calling for Keita’s departure and expressing support for the actions of the soldiers in Kati.
Earlier, the Norwegian Embassy in Mali said in an alert to its citizens: “The embassy has been notified of a mutiny in the Armed Forces and troops are on their way to Bamako. Norwegians should exercise caution and preferably stay at home until the situation is clear.”
Similarly, the French Embassy said: “Because of serious unrest this morning, August 18, in the city of Bamako, it is immediately recommended to remain at home.”