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Mali government says it has thwarted countercoup attempt

May 16, 2022 GMT

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The Malian government headed by a two-time coup leader announced late Monday that security forces had thwarted a countercoup attempt that it said was supported by an unnamed Western government.

The announcement was the latest turmoil to unfold in Mali, where Col. Assimi Goita led coups in 2020 and 2021 before becoming president of the West African nation.

The news release did not name the country it was accusing. However, relations with former colonizer France have deteriorated significantly under Goita’s rule, prompting the French military to begin a withdrawal of its forces that had spent nine years fighting Islamic extremists.

“These soldiers were supported by a Western state,” said the statement signed by the government spokesman, Col. Abdoulaye Maiga.

“The government of the Republic of Mali condemns with the utmost rigor this outrageous attack on state security, the purpose of which is to hinder — or even annihilate — the substantial efforts to secure our country and return to a constitutional order that guarantees peace and stability,” the statement continued.

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The government news release, also read by Maiga on state television, gave few details but said security forces had put down the coup last Wednesday night. It added that security had been stepped up at checkpoints on the roads leaving the capital, Bamako, in an effort to catch accomplices.

The accusations of foreign interference come ​as Goita’s regime becomes increasingly isolated. A day earlier, the government spokesman had announced that Mali was dropping out of a five-nation regional security force known as the G5.

And last month it said it was permanently suspending French media outlets Radio France International and France 24, two of the most listened to news outlets in the West African country. Malian authorities accused RFI and France 24 of publishing false reports about abuses committed by Malian soldiers.

Mali’s government also accused the French army of violating the country’s airspace and denounced what it said was the unauthorized use of surveillance drones. Those allegations came after France released videos appearing to show Russian mercenaries burying bodies near an army base in northern Mali, which had been handed over by the French to Malian forces.

France and other nations sharply condemned the August 2020 overthrow of Mali’s democratically elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Nine months later, Goita launched a second coup when he fired the country’s interim civilian leaders and became president himself.

While the junta initially agreed to an 18-month transition back to civilian rule, it failed to organize elections by the deadline in February. Last month, the government said it would need two more years in power before it could organize a vote.

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Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.