Mali soldiers detain senior officers in apparent mutiny

Witnesses said Malian soldiers took up arms in the garrison town of Kati

FILE PHOTO: Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita poses for a picture during the G5 Sahel summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania June 30, 2020. Ludovic Marin /Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Malian soldiers in the garrison town of Kati on Tuesday began arresting senior military officers in an apparent mutiny that came after more than two months of demonstrations calling for the president's resignation.

It was not clear who was behind the latest unrest in Mali, but the developments prompted government workers in the capital, Bamako, about 15 kilometres south of Kati, to flee.

"Arrests are being made of officials. It's total confusion," said an officer at Mali's Ministry of Internal Security.

Witnesses said tanks and military vehicles were on the streets of Kati. The French embassy in Bamako tweeted that residents of Kati and Bamako should stay indoors.

The developments on Tuesday bore a resemblance to the events leading up to the 2012 military coup, which led to years of chaos in Mali.

On March 21, 2012, a mutiny began at the Kati military camp as soldiers began rioting and then broke into the camp's armoury. After taking weapons, they headed for the seat of government, led by Amadou Haya Sanogo, who held the rank of captain at the time.

Mr Sanogo was later forced to hand over power to a civilian transitional government that organised elections. The man who won that 2013 vote, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, is now facing mounting pressure to step down as his unpopularity grows.

Regional mediators urged him to share power in a unity government but those overtures were swiftly rejected by opposition leaders, who said they would not stop short of Mr Keita's removal.

His government has been criticised for how it is handling the militant insurgency engulfing the country, which was once praised as a model of democracy in the region.

The military faced a wave of deadly attacks in the north last year, prompting the government to close its most vulnerable outposts to stem the losses.