Mali's ousted leader safe, free

2012-03-28 19:24

Bamako - Mali's ousted leader Amadou Toumani Toure, whose whereabouts has been unknown since he was overthrown on March 22, on Wednesday told AFP he was safe in Bamako and was not being held by the junta.

"I am indeed in Bamako, and thank God my family and I are doing well," Toure said in a brief telephone conversation.

Asked about his location, Toure responded: "Does it matter? What is important to know, is that I am not being held prisoner.

"I am obviously following what is happening, I wish with all my heart that peace and democracy triumph in Mali. I have nothing else to say for the moment," he added.

The fate of the ousted president, 63, has raised concern in the past six days, since renegade soldiers forced him to flee as they fired on the presidency last weekend in a mutiny which led to a full-blown coup.

The soldiers seized government buildings and on Thursday took to state television to announce they had suspended the constitution and overthrown an "incompetent" government.

The mutineers said they had not been equipped to deal with a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north of the west African nation.

Members of his entourage said Toure was under protection of his elite paratrooper "Red Beret" guard, but comments by coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo who said he was safe in a secret location, raised concerns the ousted leader was being detained.

On Tuesday, France announced its ambassador Christian Rouyer "was able to speak on the phone to president ATT, as he is affectionately known, who reassured him over his fate".

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