BAMAKO, Mali, March 23 (UPI) -- French officials said they suspended cooperation with Mali after a coup toppled the African country's president, Amadou Tourmani Toure, who was forced to flee.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday France wanted Toure to be kept safe and others detained by the coup plotters released, Radio France Internationale reported.
Reports about Toure's whereabouts are conflicting. One report indicated he had taken refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, Mali's capital. Another report quoted his aides as saying Toure was unharmed and under the protection of loyalist members of the presidential guard at a military camp in Bamako.
Military officers stormed the presidential palace Wednesday, then announced they overthrew what they called Toure's "incompetent government."
The leader of the coup, Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, said on state TV a curfew was in place and he called for an end to widespread looting.
The overthrow came weeks before presidential elections.
Toure, nearing the end of his second term, had said he would not seek re-election.
Toure had been hailed for instituting a multiparty democracy in the country but there was growing resentment among his military leaders about the handling of an insurrection by independence-seeking Tuareg rebels in northern Mali, The Guardian reported. The rebels control of most of the north of the country except for the major towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal.