ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- Soldiers seized power in the West African state of Mali Tuesday morning, toppling the 'bloodthirsty and corrupt' government of President Moussa Traore. They pledged to establish a multi-party political system.
The overthrow climaxed five days of anti-government demonstrationsand unrest in which up to 170 people were killed when the armed forces opened fire on civilians demanding democratic reform.
A joint operation carried out by the army and the security forces, led by Lt. Col. Amadou Soumani Toure, brought a swift end to the Traore regime, witnesses said.
Traore and his wife, Mariam, were arrested in the capital, Bamako, and taken under heavily armed escort to an army barracks in the city. It is believed they were trying to flee the country when they were arrested.
The new administration immediately established a National Reconciliation Council and announced over Malian radio that the country's borders and airports were closed, the constitution suspended, the ruling Democratic Union of Malian People (UPDM) party disbanded and the government dissolved.
In Washington, State Department spoeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said looting and disorder in the capital continued during the morning hours. She said there were no reports of Americans injured or U.S. property damaged.
There are about a total of 600 Americans in the country, Tutwiler said, and there were no plans to evacuate anyone.
'We encourage the Committee of Reconciliation to restore order, to seek political resolution through dialogue, and move towards pluralistic democracy as soon as possible,' the spokkeswoman said.
The military, in it's first communique broadcast on state radio, said:
'Considering the grave situation which our country is going through, considering the bloodbath carried out against our country, considering the obstinacy of Moussa Traore's regime to remain in power by all means ... we, the Malian armed forces and security forces, have formed a National Reconciliation Council and decided, in conjunction with our country's democratic organisations, to put an end to the bloodthirsty and corrupt regime of Moussa Traore.'
The communique called for reconciliation and the eradication of corruption, nepotism 'and all the unspeakable malpractices from our beloved country.'
A short time later another statement urged people to prevent looting and vandalism and appealed for calm.
A third communique announced the suspension of the constitution and the dissolution of the government and the ruling UPDM Party. The NRC pledged to stand by existing international agreements, as well as a recent accord reached with Tuareg tribesmen in the north of the country who had been fighting a prolonged armed secessionist conflict with the Traore regime.
Traore seized power in a bloodless coup in 1968.