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Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse were detained by mutinying soldiers on Tuesday, sparking fears of a coup. A government source said the two men were in the hands of "rebel soldiers".

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"We can tell you that the president and the prime minister are under our control," the leader, who requested anonymity, told AFP.

A government source later confirmed that Keita and Cisse were in the hands of "rebel soldiers".

The soldiers took up arms in the garrison town of Kati and detained senior military officers, sparking fears of a coup after several months of anti-government demonstrations calling for the president's resignation. Witnesses later said soldiers had surrounded Keita's private residence.

Boubou Doucoure, who works as Cisse's director of communications, confirmed the pair had been detained and had been driven in armoured vehicles to the army base in the town of Kati, about 15 kilometres (9 miles) away.

Mali's state broadcaster ORTM went off-line briefly before coming back on air in the early evening with pre-recorded programming.

The soldiers later moved freely through the streets of Bamako, making it clear that they were in control of the capital city.

Protesters gathered in central Bamako in a show of support for the mutinous soldiers.

Anti-government protesters in Mali

The M5-RFP opposition coalition, which has been one of the forces behind mass protests calling for Keita to resign, denied that a coup was in progress. A spokesman said the president's detention was “not a military coup but a popular insurrection”.

“IBK (Keita) did not want to listen to his people. We even proposed an alternative but he responded with killings,” Nouhoum Togo, a spokesman for M5-RFP, told Reuters, referring to Keita by his initials.

Keita, who was democratically elected, has broad support from former colonial power France and other Western allies.

But the M5-RFP opposition along with the June 5 Movement – so named after the date of its first protest – have been marshaling deep-seated anger over a dire economy, perceived government corruption and Mali's continuing battle against the unrest sown by regional jihadist groups.

Douglas Yates on the Mali unrest

Earlier in the day an officer at Mali's ministry of internal security, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press, described the chaotic scenes.

“Officials are being arrested – it's total confusion."

In the capital Bamako, government workers fled their offices as armed men began detaining officials, including the country's Finance Minister Abdoulaye Daffe.

Prime Minister Cisse had earlier in the day called for dialogue with the soldiers. "The government is calling for calm and makes itself available … to engage in fraternal dialogue in order to remove all misunderstandings," he said in a statement.

The prime minister also admitted that the soldiers may have "legitimate frustrations".

Concerns for regional stability

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on the events on Wednesday. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Malians to protect their democratic institutions and called for the "immediate and unconditional release" of Mali's president.

The EU also condemned the "attempted coup" in Mali. "The European Union condemns the attempted coup d'état under way in Mali and rejects all unconstitutional change," the bloc's diplomatic chief, Josep Borrell, said in a statement.

The African Union also denounced the arrests of the Malian leadership.

"I forcefully condemn the arrest of PresiRead More – Source