Mali junta claims control of Bamako after fighting

Mali's coup leaders have said they are in control of the situation in Bamako, after hours of fighting in the capital. In a message on TV, they said they held the state broadcasting building, the airport and army barracks after a counter-coup attempt by loyalists of ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure. However, some gunfire can still be heard in the city. Several people are believed to have been killed.


The junta handed power to an interim government after the March coup.


But the junta – led by Capt Amadou Sanago – is still thought to wield considerable influence in the West African country and opposes plans to send a regional peacekeeping force to the country.


Deserted streets


In the TV message broadcast early on Tuesday, the coup leaders said the situation was under control after the clashes with members of the presidential guard and "foreign elements". Members of the "Red Berets" presidential guards unit earlier reportedly entered the broadcaster's building, which had been controlled by pro-junta forces since the coup. "These are elements of the presidential guard from the old regime and they're trying to turn things around," junta spokesman Bacary Mariko told the Reuters news agency.


Bamako-based journalist Martin Vogl said the airport and the junta's military base just outside the capital were also attacked. He says it is not clear where the latest shooting is coming from. The clashes reportedly came after junta loyalists tried to arrest the head of the presidential guard, whose forces decided to strike first.


One eyewitness told Reuters that the streets of Bamako were deserted. Electricity has been cut in several part of the city. A spokesman for the regional body, Ecowas, told the BBC he was not surprised by the fighting because the junta was "still meddling" in the affairs of government.


"We urge [the military] to get back to barracks," said Sonny Ugoh.


He said there was "no alternative" to sending troops to Mali but stressed they were to help Mali fight rebels who have seized control of the three northern provinces of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao – a mostly desert area the size of France.


The rebels are a combination of ethnic Tuareg separatists and Islamists, who want to impose Sharia law across the whole country. The 22 March coup was led by soldiers who accused former President Toure of failing to combat the insurgency, which took advantage of the unrest to make rapid advances. Martin Vogl says the coup leaders oppose Ecowas plans for interim President Dioncounda Traore to stay in power for a year while organising elections. Despite officially handing over power on 12 April, the junta later went on to arrest a number of loyalist to the ousted president, prompting Mr Toure to flee to neighbouring Senegal.


Fresh turmoil in Mali

The situation in Mali is far from settled