Mali's state broadcaster back on air

Wednesday 21 March 2012 23.49
The presidential palace of Amadou Toumani Toure was sealed off
The presidential palace of Amadou Toumani Toure was sealed off

Mali's state broadcaster came back on air tonight after programmes were interrupted for several hours during an attack by mutinous soldiers on the capital Bamako.

The broadcaster announced that it would issue an army statement shortly.

"In a moment, there will be a statement by the military," read the brief message, displayed against a backdrop of traditional Malian music and dance.

Earlier, the presidential palace was sealed off with armoured vehicles.

Reporters heard 10 minutes of automatic gunfire coming from close to the Malian state broadcaster, whose programmes went off air. Soldiers blocked the path towards its premises.

The incidents coincided with growing anger in the army at the government's handling of a Tuareg-led rebellion in the north of the West African country that has killed dozens of people and forced nearly 200,000 civilians to flee their homes.

A military source said a trigger for today’s events was a visit by the defence minister to a barracks in the town of Kati about 20km north of Bamako.

"The minister went to speak to troops but the talks went badly and people were complaining about the handling of the crisis in the north," the source said of the visit.

An official in the defence ministry who was at the meeting in Kati said a soldier accused the defense minister of betraying them by not giving them means to fight the rebels. Soldiers then began throwing rocks at the minister before they took weapons from the armory and started shooting in the air.

The defence ministry official, who asked not to be named, said the presidential guard would be deployed to secure the situation and added that, contrary to reports, the defence minister was not hurt in the incident.

Three armoured vehicles stood in the street blocking the main entrance to the palace of President Amadou Toumani Toure.