|Mali coup leader appeals for calm|
Army captain Amadou Sanogo calls for end to looting amid reports of sporadic gunfire and lawlessness in capital Bamako.
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2012 10:13
|The self-declared leader of a military coup in Mali has appeared in a recorded interview on state television to call for calm, and deny reports that soldiers had looted petrol stations and hijacked cars in the capital, Bamako.|
"I call on all Malians to stop the pillaging. The acts of vandalism are not from our soldiers. It is not their mission, it is not their fight," said Amadou Sanogo, an army captain, in the interview broadcast late on Friday.
"You can buy a [soldier's] uniform in the market. What makes you think it is not other people who are doing this to damage the image of our cause?" Sanogo added.
The situation remained tense and confused, with reports of sporadic gunfire in the capital, 48 hours after the coup against President Amadou Toumani Toure.
Rumours swirled of an imminent counter-coup led by Toure loyalists and that Sanogo had been killed, a suggestion denied on state TV.
"We assure you that everything is fine," a statement from the coup's leaders on Friday said. "We invite you to go about your daily business as normal."
Adama Quindo, a Bamako resident, told the Reuters news agency: "People are afraid because of the soldiers. Often [they take] what is in the car or they make you get out and take the car or sometimes the soldiers themselves just break into shops."
Although most shops, petrol stations and businesses were closed in Bamako, some residents ventured out in search of necessities.
Residents said looting had caused shortages and fuel prices had doubled to over $2.60 (1,300 CFA francs) a litre in about 24 hours.
The African Union meanwhile said it had received assurances that Toure was safe, even though his whereabouts remain unknown.
"We have been told that the president is safe, protected by a certain number of loyalists," AU Commission head Jean Ping told reporters after a meeting of the bloc's Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa.
"The president is in Mali for sure. The assurances we are getting from those that are protecting him is that he is not far from Bamako," Ping said.
A joint mission of the AU and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS arrived in Bamako on Friday for negotiations with the rebels, Paul Lolo, the chairman of the Peace and Security Council, told Al Jazeera on Saturday.
"[The mission] is in negotiations with the rebels and it is our hope that they will listen to reason and return Mali to constitutional order without delay," he said.