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ECOWAS weighs next step for Mali

May 22, 2012 at 10:45 AM

BAMAKO, Mali, May 22 (UPI) -- Members of an African economic alliance said sanctions against Mali are a real possibility following an assault on the country's interim president.

Interim President Dioncounda Traore was beaten unconscious by protesters Monday, the day his tenure was set to expire. He had recently struck a deal with coup leader Capt. Amadou Sanago to stay in office another year.

Demonstrators were said to identify Traore with the political class widely blamed for insecurity in the country, the BBC reports. Sanago led the overthrow of the government in March, expressing frustration with the inability of the government to handle a northern rebellion. Rebels in the north have since declared autonomy for their part of the country.

Prime Minister Cheick Mobido Diarra expressed regret over the assault on the interim leader. The British broadcaster suggested coup supporters allowed demonstrators into Traore's office near the presidential palace.

Sunny Ugoh, a spokesman for the Economic Community of West African States, told the BBC that sanctions were now a distinct possibility for Mali.

"I believe that regional governments are already consulting to see how they can respond to the situation," he said.

Traore was later released after receiving treatment for a head wound.

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