The CNRDR representing all the elements of the armed forces, defensive forces and security forces has decided to assume its responsibilities and end the incompetent and disavowed regime of (President) Amadou Toumani Toure. All the institutions of the republic are dissolved until further notice. ... The objective of the CNRDR does not in any way aim to confiscate power, and we solemnly swear to return power to a democratically elected president as soon as national unity and territorial integrity are established.
The series of events that culminated in the coup began on Wednesday morning at a military camp in the capital, during a visit by Defense Minister Gen. Sadio Gassama. In his speech to the troops, the minister failed to address the grievances of the rank-and-file soldiers, who are angry over what they say is the government's mismanagement of a rebellion in the north by Tuareg separatists. The rebellion has claimed the lives of numerous soldiers, and those sent to fight are not given sufficient supplies, including arms or food. Their widows have not received compensation.
Recruits started firing into the air Wednesday, and they stoned the general's car as it raced away. By afternoon, soldiers had surrounded the state television station in central Bamako, yanking both the television and radio signals off the air for more than 7 hours. By Wednesday evening, troops had started rioting at a military garrison located in the northern town of Gao, some 2,000 miles away.
A freelance journalist from Sweden who was driving to her hotel near the TV station at around 4 p.m. local time on Wednesday, said that trucks full of soldiers had surrounded the state broadcaster.
"We saw a couple of trucks, with military on them. They came and started setting up checkpoints. There were military in the streets, stopping people," said Katarina Hoije. "When we reached our hotel which is just in front of the TV station, there were lots of military outside, and more cars kept arriving -- pickup trucks with soldiers on them."
She said that they set up two machine guns facing the building.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "The situation is currently unclear and unfolding quickly," she said. "There are reports of military forces surrounding the presidential palace and movement of vehicles between the palace and the military barracks."
The Tuareg uprising that began in mid-January is being fueled by arms leftover from the civil war in neighboring Libya. Tens of thousands of people have fled the north, and refugees have spilled over into four of the countries neighboring Mali due to the uprising.
The government has not disclosed how many soldiers have been killed, but the toll has been significant. In February, military widows led a protest. In an attempt to diffuse tension, the Malian president allowed himself to be filmed meeting the widows, who publicly grilled him on his handling of the rebellion.