Mali junta says counter-coup defeated

2012-05-01 22:18
Bamako - The soldiers who overthrew the government in Mali five weeks ago said on Tuesday they had defeated a counter-coup by foreign-backed forces loyal to the ousted president in overnight fighting that left 14 dead.

Gunfire had erupted at the national television and radio station, the airport and at the garrison town near the capital Bamako that is the headquarters of the rebel soldiers led by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo.

The resurgence of fighting dimmed hopes for a quick return to order in the west African country where political chaos since the March 22 coup has allowed Tuareg rebels and Islamists to seize swathes of the vast desert north.

A soldier reading out a message on television on behalf of Sanogo said "foreign elements backed by dark forces from inside the country carried out these attacks", adding that some of them were arrested.

"We have had 14 dead and 40 wounded," Abdoulaye Nene Coulibaly, the director of the Gabriel Toure hospital here, told AFP, adding that the casualties were on both sides.

An AFP reporter saw members of the junta enter the hospital before whisking away several of the wounded loyalists in 4X4 vehicles.

"Now you're going to tell us who were the ones who forced you to provoke us! You've been taught a lesson but it's not over yet," an angry officer shouted at the wounded.

The coup leaders, under intense regional and international pressure, have allowed a civilian interim government to take over but have kept making arrests, which witnesses said sparked the latest violence.

But in an interview broadcast on national television Tuesday, Sanogo promised that the transitional deal he agreed to on April 6 restoring civilian rule remains in force.

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