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Mali Crisis: Mutinying Soldiers Arrest President, Prime Minister

The arrest came after soldiers mutinied at the Kati army base outside of Bamako and rounded up a number of senior civilian and military officials.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita the his Prime Minister Boubou Cisse were arrested on Tuesday by mutinying soldiers in the capital Bamako.

The arrest came after soldiers mutinied at the Kati army base outside of Bamako and rounded up a number of senior civilian and military officials.

West African nations joined by France urged the mutinying soldiers to return to their barracks, after unrest erupted at a key base near the capital.

In separate statements, the 15-nation regional bloc ECOWAS and France accused troops of “mutiny” at a time of wrenching problems in their country, and warned against any undemocratic change of power.

Seized: Malian Prime Minister Boubou Cisse, left, and President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

The Malian government said earlier that the soldiers may have “legitimate frustrations” and urged “fraternal dialogue in order to remove all misunderstandings.”

The statements gave no details, but witnesses earlier reported gunfire at an army base in the town of Kati, some 15 kilometres (nine miles) from Bamako, which was then sealed off by troops.

Convoys of armed men travelling in pick-up trucks — some dressed in military fatigues — also arrived in Bamako on Tuesday and were cheered on by jubilant crowds, an AFP journalist saw.

The mutiny coincided with opposition plans to resume protests against president Keita.

Protesters also gathered on Bamako’s Independence Square on Tuesday, according to AFP. Some reportedly later looted an office of the justice minister, which lies just off the square.

The embassy of France, the former colonial power, recommended on social media on Tuesday that everyone remain at home.

Mali has been in the grip of a deep political impasse since June, with the 75-year-old president facing increasingly strident demands for his resignation.

So called after the date of its first protest, the June 5 Movement has been channeling deep anger over a dire economy, perceived government corruption and a brutal jihadist conflict.

Its anti-Keita campaign veered into crisis last month when at least 11 people were killed during clashes with security forces, over three days of unrest following a protest.

Mali’s allies and neighbours are anxious to avoid the country sliding into chaos.

Swathes of its territory are already outside of the control of the government, which is struggling to contain a jihadist insurgency which first emerged in 2012 and has claimed thousands of lives.

The failure to end that conflict contributed to frustrations with Keita’s rule in Mali.