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Mali army commanders say Bamako under control

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Army commanders in Mali say that they have regained control of the capital following three days of skirmishes.

Bamako has been tense since soldiers loyal to ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure attempted to stage a counter coup on Monday.

Hospital officials said at least 22 people were killed in fighting between Toure's loyalists and soldiers behind the earlier coup.

The leader of the March coup blamed the counter-coup on "foreign elements backed by dark forces from inside the country".

West Africa's regional bloc, who met in Mali for negotiations, said it soon will deploy forces to Mali, a plan already rejected by the country's ruling junta.

Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the president of the commission of the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, said the group intended to send forces immediately but still needed to consult with its partners about financing the deployment.

The announcement came late Thursday after hours of meetings in the Senegalese capital that were aimed at resolving the political impasses in Mali and Guinea-Bissau following recent coup d'etats.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, the current chair of ECOWAS, said the ongoing instability in Mali threatens the peace of the entire region.

"We would like for all the new Malian leaders to work together for a reunified Mali," he said, adding that negotiations would be initiated with the northern rebels.

'Institutions not undermined'

Cheick Modibo Diarra, the interim prime minister, said in a televised statement: "We have witnessed an attempt to destabilise the country these last 48 hours, which resulted in a temporary, not yet complete, victory for our army and our security forces".

"There are still some civilian and armed elements on the loose, which justifies the massive presence of our armed and security forces in the city of Bamako."

He said there was "a persistence ... in attempts to destabilise the country" but told citizens: "Stay calm, there is no reason to panic."

Said Djinnit, the United Nations Special Representative for West Africa, condemned the latest violence, which he said "could only serve to complicate an already difficult transition".

Djibril Bassole, Burkina Faso's foreign minister, whose country has played a key role in negotiations with the coup leaders, said the offensive launched on Monday night was an "unfortunate incident."

But it "does not undermine the institutions. The interim president is still in place, the institutions remain in place," he said.

Even though the junta is technically no longer in power, it has made its influence felt. 

West African leaders fear that the area - a drought-stricken region, long plagued by arms and drug trafficking and kidnappings - will become a haven for fighters planning attacks across the region.

A delegation from the ex-junta on Wednesday met in Burkina Faso with President Blaise Compaore, the ECOWAS mediator for Mali, for talks that were expected to touch on the precarious situation in the north.


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