by Staff Writers
Bamako (AFP) March 21, 2012
Renegade Malian soldiers traded gunfire with troops outside the presidential palace on Wednesday and seized the state broadcasting station amid fury over government's handling of a Tuareg rebellion.
President Amadou Toumani Toure was holed up inside the presidency, an advisor told AFP, under protection of his elite paratroopers unit known as "Red Berets" who had taken up position outside government buildings.
"We are in control of the presidential palace. People are shooting towards us and we are returning fire," a member of the presidential guard told AFP via telephone.
Anger erupted among the soldiers who say they are fed-up with a lack of resources and proper weapons as they Tuareg insurgents waging a two-month old battle in the north of the country.
One of the mutineers spoke to AFP as gunfire rang out in the background: "We are doing everything we can so that our demands are met."
France and the United States expressed alarm at unfolding events and urged a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
"The situation is currently unclear and unfolding quickly," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, urging US citizens to stay indoors.
"We believe that grievances should be addressed through dialogue, not through violence," she said.
Panic swept the capital in the late afternoon, with people running in all directions as shots fired by soldiers rung out wildly.
They then occupied the Malian Radio-Television Office (ORTM) at around 1630 GMT, firing off rounds inside the building.
As employees were ushered out of the office, radio and television services went off the air.
"We are tired of the situation in the north", gripped by a Tuareg rebellion, a soldier told AFP among the melee.
The anger erupted several hours earlier when newly-appointed Defence Minister Sadio Gassama visited the Kati military camp some 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the capital to appease tensions over the ongoing insurgency.
His efforts failed and soldiers protested, firing shots into the air as they demanded proper weapons with which to face the rebels who have seized several towns in the northern triangle of the bow-tie shaped nation.
"We want ammunition to go and fight the Tuareg rebels. Enough is enough," a corporal at the Kati camp told AFP.
"The defence minister came to Kati, but he failed to convince us."
The corporal, who would not give his name, said the soldiers were not seeking the departure of President Amadou Toumani Toure - who is due to step down ahead of an April 29 presidential election after completing two mandates.
"He is our president, but he needs to fix things."
France called "for respect for the constitutional order and condemns any recourse to violence," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in a statement.
Anger has grown in recent weeks over the government's handling of the conflict in which the Tuareg attacks have caused up to 200,000 people to flee.
While no official death toll is available, many soldiers are believed to have died in the fighting. When the town of Aguelhok was captured, up to 100 soldiers and civilians were summarily executed, France said in February.
That same month, the wives and families of those fighting the rebels took to the streets of the capital and several other cities, and some protests turned violent as they denounced what they said was the government's weak response.
Tuareg rebels, organised under the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) set up late last year, in mid-January launched successive lightening strikes against northern towns.
In some cases soldiers abandoned their barracks in smaller towns, leaving them to the rebels, as they withdrew to defend larger targets in the vast, desert zone.
The Tuareg rebellion is part of a decades-old bid for independence, and this offensive, the first since 2009, was boosted by the recent return of heavily-armed men who fought in Libya for slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
One group fighting alongside the MNLA is the Islamist group called Ancar Dine, Defenders of Islam, which has demanded the imposition of Islamic Sharia law across Mali -- a demand not supported by the larger movement.
On March 13, Ancar Dine released a video showing images of dead soldiers as well as about 30 who were taken prisoner.
A nomadic community of some 1.5 million people, Tuareg of various tribes are scattered between Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Niger and Mali.
Mali and Niger experienced uprisings as the Tuareg fought for recognition of their identity and an independent state in the 1960s, 1990s and early 2000, with a resurgence between 2006 and 2009.
Africa News - Resources, Health, Food
Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.
Efforts to save lives in Nigeria with clean cookstoves
Abuja (AFP) March 20, 2012
A UN-linked body launched a campaign in Nigeria on Tuesday aimed at preventing deaths due to toxic smoke from rudimentary cookstoves, one of the developing world's worst public health threats. Some two million people die annually from diseases caused by toxic cookstove smoke, according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a UN Foundation-led initiative seeking to reverse the trend. ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|