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Reports: Mali president 'safe,' rebels on move after coup

Malin Palm / Reuters

Malian soldiers and security forces gather at the offices of the state radio and television broadcaster Thursday after announcing a coup d'etat, in the capital Bamako.

The ousted president of Mali was reported to be safe late Thursday after mutinous soldiers stormed his palace, took over state-run television and closed the western African nation’s borders.

Mutineers calling themselves National Committee for the Reestablishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State would not confirm the whereabouts of President Amadou Toumani Toure, Al Jazeera news agency reported.

In a late-night interview on state television, a committee spokesman identified as Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo said only that Toure is "doing well and is safe."

A military source told AFP, the French news agency, that Toure fled the palace and was holed up in a military camp guarded by elite “Red Beret” paratroopers. Toure, 63, is a former paratrooper. He was due to leave the presidency after elections scheduled April 29, having already served the maximum two terms allowed by Malian law.

Another committee spokesman, identified as Lt. Amadou Konare, also on state television, did not mention the elections but said the junta "solemnly commits to restore power to a democratically elected president as soon as national unity and territorial integrity are re-established."

Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, Mali's foreign minister, was among those being held by mutineers, Al Jazeera reported.

The coup in a country earlier seen as a democratic success brought condemnation from France, which formerly held Mali as a colony, the Organization of Islamic Co-operation, the White House and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Earlier: Coup topples 'incompetent regime'

The mutineers said they overthrew the government because of its mishandling of an ethnic Tuareg insurgency backed by al-Qaida in the country's north that began in January after many fighters returned heavily armed from Libya, where they served in Moammar Gadhafi’s army.

Tuareg rebels in northern Mali took advantage of confusion over the coup and pushed south to occupy positions vacated by government forces, sources said Thursday.

A Malian officer in the northern town of Kidal said rebels had occupied the military camp in Anefis, 60 miles to the southwest.

"The army has pulled back to Gao," a source in Timbuktu, another main town in the north, told Reuters, asking not to be named. "There is no longer any military leadership. (The rebels) will take the towns in the north," he said.

This article includes reporting by Reuters.

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