Leaders of a military coup in Mali that detained President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and forced his resignation said Wednesday they would enact a political transition and stage elections within a "reasonable time".
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The National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) "decided to take responsibility in front of the people and of history", Ismael Wague, the Malian Air Force deputy chief of staff, said in a state television broadcast.
Looking tired and wearing a surgical mask, Keita resigned in a brief address broadcast on state television hours after troops seized him along with Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and other top officials, plunging a country already facing a jihadist insurgency and mass protests deeper into crisis.
"If today, certain elements of our armed forces want this to end through their intervention, do I really have a choice?" he said from a military base in Kati outside the capital Bamako where he had been detained earlier in the day.
Mali's President Keita announces resignation
"I want no blood to be spilled to keep me in power," he said.
It was not immediately clear who was leading the revolt or who would govern in Keita's absence.
Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Bamako since June calling for Keita to resign over what they say are his failures to address worsening security and corruption.
France and other international powers as well as the African Union denounced the mutiny, fearful that the fall of Keita could further destabilise the former French colony and West Africa's entire Sahel region.
Analysis: a weakened regime in a restive country
Earlier on Tuesday, soldiers took up arms in the garrison town of Kati and detained senior military officers, sparking fears of a coup. Witnesses later said soldiers had surrounded Keita's private residence.
Images posted on social media said to be taken at the Kati garrison showed Keita and Cisse surrounded by armed soldiers. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the videos.
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 Kati, about 15 kilometres (9 miles) from Bamako.
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.
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."
Government workers fled their offices in Bamako 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.
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