, BAMAKO, Mar 22 – Renegade Mali soldiers said on Thursday they had seized the presidential palace and arrested several ministers after a gun battle, in an apparent coup bid in the west African nation.
“We are in control of the presidential palace,” one of the rebels told AFP on condition of anonymity as a group of soldiers appeared on state television, seized several hours earlier.
Another fighter said Foreign Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga and Interior Minister Kafouhouna Kone were among those held by the officers.
Meanwhile an independent source said President Amadou Toumani Toure, earlier holed up in the palace as shots were traded outside, had managed to leave the premises.
A mutiny over the way government is handling a Tuareg insurrection in the north began Wednesday afternoon and turned into an apparent coup attempt as soldiers seized control of the government broadcaster and attacked the presidential palace.
After an hours-long media blackout, a message flashed on television promising “a declaration from soldiers in an instant” from just before midnight while music videos played in the background.
At 0430 GMT a group of uniformed soldiers appeared on the screen, however the sound equipment appeared not to be working, and shortly afterwards the view again switched to music videos.
The one speaking was identified on the screen as Lieutenant Amadou Konare, spokesman of the National Committee for the Establishment of Democracy.