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Renegade soldiers declare power seizure in Mali

From Umaro Djau, CNN
updated 5:31 AM EDT, Thu March 22, 2012
Security forces stand in front of relatives and supporters of soldiers fighting rebels Tuareg in the north in Bamako on February 2
Security forces stand in front of relatives and supporters of soldiers fighting rebels Tuareg in the north in Bamako on February 2
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Soldiers wearing fatigues say on state television that they have suspended the constitution
  • Soldiers have taken over the nation, a military spokesman says
  • They have suspended the constitution and dissolved all public institutions, he says
  • Statements does not address the whereabouts of the president

(CNN) -- Renegade Malian soldiers declared Thursday that they have seized power in the nation and dissolved public institutions because of the government's handling of an insurgency in the north.

In a statement on state media, soldiers wearing fatigues -- led by a spokesman -- said they have also suspended the constitution.

Security forces have formed the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State to work as a transitional government, according to Amadou Konare, the spokesman for the soldiers.

He accused the government of not providing soldiers with the means to battle local Tuareg nomads whose uprising has grown as rebels return from fighting for ousted Libyan ruler, Moammar Gadhafi.

The influx of fighters returning from Libya has re-energized the Tuareg insurgency, which seeks to wrest control of some northern regions.

Security forces have battled the rebels in the region, sending tens of thousands of Malians fleeing into neighboring countries.

"Considering the incapacity of the regime in effectively fighting against terrorism and restoring dignity to the Malian people, using its constitutional rights, the armed forces of Mali along with other security forces have decided to take on their responsibilities to put an end to this incompetent regime of President Amadou Toumani Toure," Konare said.

The leader of the group appealed for calm and declared an immediate curfew between midnight to 6 a.m. until further notice.

"We're asking everyone to respect the institutions of the republic. We're taking all the necessary actions and measures to assure the security of people and their properties," said Capt. Amadou Sanogo, who was described as the leader of the new transitional government.

The statements did not address the whereabouts of the president, whose palace is in the capital of Bamako.

Toure has led the nation for 10 years and is scheduled to step down next month after serving two presidential terms.

In the official government Twitter feed, he denied reports of an attempted coup and said he was writing from the palace to prove he was in charge.

"Deserters and other military personnel who do not want to go to the front are mutinied," he said late Wednesday hours before soldiers made the announcement.

The growing Tuareg insurgency is raising concerns in Washington, which sees the small nation as an important ally against AQIM, the sub-Saharan al Qaeda group.

Conflict in the region has forced the United Nations to appeal for $35.6 million to address the growing humanitarian crisis as throngs of Malians flee into neighboring countries.

A delegation from the Economic Community of West African States, which was on a fact-finding mission on the Tuareg uprising, was caught up in the chaos in the capital. Its director said his attempts to talk to both sides have been unsuccessful.

Toure's whereabouts are unknown, and sporadic gunshots continued to erupt Thursday, said Abdel-Fatau Musah, the director of the West African bloc.

The Kenyan foreign ministry had also sent a delegation to Mali to attend a peace and security meeting. The three officials are safe in their hotel in the capital.

CNN's Alden Mahler Levine and Faith Karimi contributed to this report

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