Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Soldiers in Mali arrested President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse as well as other government officials Tuesday in a suspected coup, the African Union said.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairman of the African Union Commission, confirmed the arrests in a tweet.
"I strongly condemn the arrest of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the prime minister and other members of the Malian government, and call for their immediate release," he said in a post translated by CNN.
Troops stormed the capital of Bamako on Tuesday morning, and protesters filled and the streets and surrounded the Independence Monument. Demonstrators set a fire at a building owned by the minister of justice.
An unnamed French military official told The Washington Post that the incident was a "likely coup" attempt.
Earlier in the day, Cisse used Facebook to call for the military to use peaceful means to address concerns.
"The government calls for reasons and a patriotic sense and asks for the use of arms to be stopped. There are no problems that cannot be solved in dialogue," he said.
In addition to the president and prime minister, troops detained the leader of the National Assembly and finance minister.
The U.S. Embassy in Mali issued a security alert, urging U.S. nationals to avoid Bamako and Kati and for staff to remain indoors and avoid unnecessary travel.
"There have been multiple reports of gunfire throughout the city as well as reports of soldiers driving in trucks and firing their weapons in the air," the embassy said.
Tuesday's incident comes after growing tensions in Mali since May after Keita's party won a majority of vacant seats in an election. Keita has served as president since 2013, and was prime minister from 1994 to 2000.