BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Soldiers on Wednesday stormed the state TV and radio station in Mali, as fears of a possible coup gripped the country in the wake of a military mutiny which spread from a garrison in the capital to one thousands of miles away.
The sound of heavy weapons rang out and trucks carrying soldiers were seen fanning out around the building housing the state broadcaster. Television screens went black across the landlocked nation for roughly 7 hours, coming back a little before midnight to announce that a government statement would soon be issued.
Throughout Africa, coups usually begin with the seizing of national television, and the population was on edge. The presidential palace rushed to deny that a coup was in progress, issuing a Tweet, saying: “There is no coup in Mali. There’s just a mutiny.”
The mutiny began Wednesday morning at a military camp in the capital, during a visit by Defense Minister Gen. Sadio Gassama. In his speech to the troops, the minister failed to address the grievances of the rank-and-file soldiers, who are angry over what they say is the government’s mismanagement of a rebellion in the north of the country by Tuareg separatists. The rebellion has claimed the lives of numerous soldiers, and those sent to fight are not given sufficient supplies, including arms and food.
Recruits started firing into the air, according to a soldier who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the press. By afternoon, soldiers had surrounded the state television station in central Bamako, and by evening, troops had started rioting at a military garrison located in the northern town of Gao.
A freelance journalist from Sweden who was driving to her hotel near the TV station at around 4 p.m. local time, said that trucks full of soldiers surrounded the building.