Gunfire was heard on Tuesday, August 18, at an army base outside Mali’s capital Bamako in what diplomatic and security sources said was a mutiny.
The soldiers on Tuesday fired their guns into the air in the base in Kati while witnesses said armoured tanks and military vehicles could be seen on its streets, according to media reports.
This comes amid an ongoing political crisis in the Sahel state.
There are unconfirmed rumours that the mutineers had arrested President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, prompting hundreds of anti-government protesters to pour into a central square to celebrate and say it was time for him to resign.
However, some reports claim the President had been taken to a safe location.
Speaking from Bamako, journalist Mohamed Salah told Al Jazeera that the situation in Kati was “very confusing”, with reports of soldiers putting up barricades in the town and detaining officials.
There were also reports of protesters gathering at an independence monument in Bamako, expressing support for the actions of the soldiers in Kati while calling for Keita to quit over alleged corruption and worsening security in the centre and north of Mali.
Whether he’s been arrested or not, what is certain is that his end is near. God is granting our prayers. IBK is finished,” said Haidara Assetou Cisse, a teacher, referring to the president by his initials.
Some senior government ministers and army officers were also reportedly under arrest but it was not clear by whom.
The president’s office could not be reached for comment.
“Yes, mutiny. The military has taken up arms,” a security source told Reuters.
A mutiny in 2012 at the Kati base led to a coup d’etat that toppled then-President Amadou Toumani Toure and contributed to the fall of northern Mali to jihadist militants.
The ongoing protests against Keita represent Mali’s worst political crisis since the 2012 coup. At least 14 people have been killed in the demonstrations, which have drawn tens of thousands of people into the streets of Bamako.
A European diplomat said a relatively small number of members of the National Guard, apparently angered by a pay dispute, had seized a munitions depot on Tuesday but were then reported to have been surrounded by other government troops.
A French military source said discussions were taking place between Mali’s army command and the mutineers.
Elsewhere in the capital, government ministry buildings were evacuated, an official said, and gunfire was heard near the prime minister’s office, according to a security source.
The offices of state television ORTM were also evacuated, said Kalifa Naman, a senior ORTM official. There have been no reports of any attack on state TV, which was still broadcasting prerecorded programming.
A Bamako resident said armed men had shut down access to two bridges across the Niger River within the city. It was not immediately clear who the armed men were.
The United States’ envoy to West Africa’s Sahel region expressed concern about Tuesday’s developments in Mali.
“The U.S. is opposed to all extra-constitutional changes of government, whether it is by those in the street or defence and security forces,” J. Peter Pham said on Twitter.
The French and Norwegian embassies in Bamako urged their citizens on Tuesday to stay at home.
“Because of serious unrest this morning, Aug. 18, in the city of Bamako, it is immediately recommended to remain at home,” the French Embassy said.