Soldiers loot in Mali after coup
Bamako - Soldiers looted petrol stations and hijacked cars in Mali's capital Bamako on Friday, 48 hours after a military coup, as the African Union said it had assurances that President Amadou Toumani Toure was safe.
The AU also suspended Mali's membership after the coup, which has left the West African nation in limbo and jangled nerves in a region already suffering aftershocks from last year's Libyan war.
"We have been told that the president is safe, protected by a certain number of loyalists," AU Commission head Jean Ping told reporters after a meeting of the bloc's Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa.
"The president is in Mali for sure. The assurances we are getting from those that are protecting him is that he is not far from Bamako," Ping said.
The coup's leaders have sought to capitalise on popular dissatisfaction at Toure's handling of a rebellion by northern nomads. But they looked isolated as a coalition of parties condemned the coup and urged new elections, which before Wednesday's events had been scheduled for April.
"The signatories ... condemn this forceful takeover which is a major setback for our democracy," 10 parties including Adema, the largest in parliament, said in a joint declaration.
Amadou Sanogo, the army captain named as leader of the mutineers, told Africable television on Thursday that he would not hold on to power but refused to give a time frame for restoring civilian rule.
Sanogo, who says he has had training from US Marines and intelligence, said there had been efforts to arrest Toure.
Residents in Bamako said looting had caused shortages, and fuel prices have doubled to over 1 300 CFA francs ($2.60) a litre in about 24 hours.
"I am a driver but there is no fuel for the car, I do not even have fuel for my bike to go back home," said Youssouf Diawara as he queued with other motorists for petrol.
Although most shops, petrol stations and businesses were closed some residents ventured out in search of necessities.
"People are afraid because of the soldiers. Often (they take) what is in the car or they make you get out and take the car or sometimes the soldiers themselves just break into shops," said Bamako resident Adama Quindo.
Civilians joined in the looting of a warehouse by soldiers, according to Reuters television.
"Bread is becoming scarce, I made a mistake this morning, I should have bought more," said another Bamako resident.
Mali, flooded with men and weapons after Libya's civil war, was already facing a food crisis, the Tuareg-led rebellion, and a growing Islamist threat when Sanogo's soldiers took over.