(AP) Soldiers overthrew Mali’s military dictator today after days of rioting and promised to replace Gen. Moussa Traore’s “bloodthirsty and corrupt regime” with a multiparty democracy.
At least 59 people were reported killed in violence after the overnight coup, including two top Traore supporters who were burned to death. General Traore had ruled this West African nation for 23 years.
“The army will no longer meddle in politics,” the coup leader, Lieut. Col. Amadou Toumani Toure, pledged in a radio broadcast. He said that “the army will return to its barracks” after establishing “social justice and total democracy.”
General Traore’s whereabouts was not known, although the state radio said he was under arrest. Unconfirmed reports said the President had been caught at the airport as he tried to flee the country. State radio announced that the military had closed Mali’s borders and its international airport.
Residents of Bamako, the Mali capital, cheered and set off firecrackers to celebrate the news of the ouster of General Traore. But medical officials said 59 people had been killed and about 200 wounded in post-coup violence, including revenge attacks. The officials said Education Minister Bakary Traore and the ousted leader’s brother-in-law, Mamadou Diarra, were burned to death and their bodies left at Gabriel Toure Hospital.