Mali's Toure takes refuge in Senegal

2012-04-20 09:49

Bamako - Mali's ex-president Amadou Toumani Toure, who formally resigned after being ousted by the military last month, has taken refuge in Senegal as the military released 22 soldiers and politicians.

Abou Abel Thiam, spokesperson for Senegalese President Macky Sall, said that Toure, who arrived late Thursday in Dakar with his family, had been taken to the Residence Pasteur where high-ranking guests are lodged.

"He was calm. He was with his entire family" of about 15 people, Thiam said. Senegalese Foreign Minister Alioune Badara Cisse had gone to pick them up in the Malian capital Bamako in the Senegalese presidential plane, he added.

It was not immediately known if Toure, 63, would stay in Senegal or was just passing through.

A military source in Bamako had earlier said on condition of anonymity that Toure had departed "with the agreement of Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo", the coup leader, after soldiers posted at the airport had refused to let him leave.

Renegade soldiers

The military source said troops had tried to oppose the former president's departure by firing in the air, provoking mass panic.

A group of renegade soldiers claiming to act against the government's inability to stop a Tuareg rebellion in the north seized control of Bamako on March 22, five weeks before planned presidential elections.

Following the conquest of the entire northern half of the country by Tuareg rebels and al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters and amid international condemnation, the junta struck a deal brokered by regional powers.

It officially relinquished power to civilian authority a week ago but the ex-junta has since flexed its muscles and detained figures close to the ousted president.

The troubled west African country's paramilitary police on Thursday released 22 soldiers and politicians they had arrested earlier this week, a freed lawmaker said.

22 people arrested

Television footage had showed assault rifles and ammunition clips as Colonel Diamou Keita, the head of the gendarmerie, said they had arrested 22 people, 11 of whom were civilians - one a banker - and 11 of them soldiers.

"Everybody has been released," a source close to the leaders of the March 22 coup confirmed on Thursday, adding however that two detained officials "remained under medical observation".

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said the pair still under military guard were former minister Soumaila Cisse and Waly Sissoko, a general who was close to Toure.

One of Cisse's relatives told AFP that the former minister was at a Bamako hospital "with soldiers guarding his room.... He is wounded and cannot walk".

Gendarmerie chief Keita said late Thursday that those released could still be recalled by the authorities for questioning. He did not go into detail.

Malian deputies appealed on Thursday to the armed movements controlling the north of the country to lay down their arms and withdraw immediately from all the occupied zones.

The move was adopted in parliament by 121 of the 147 deputies.

Toure formally stepped down earlier this month as part of a deal that the West African bloc Ecowas hammered out with the putschists to push through a transitional administration that will oversee a return to democracy.