Shooting in capital as Mali junta hunts "mercenaries"

Reuters News
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Posted: May 02, 2012 8:44 AM
Shooting in capital as Mali junta hunts "mercenaries"

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Gunfire erupted in Mali's capital Bamako on Wednesday in the third day of clashes between the military junta and soldiers loyal to the ousted president, causing residents to flee for cover, witnesses said.

A Malian security source told Reuters the junta's troops were evacuating buildings to find remaining loyalist fighters, including suspected foreign mercenaries, who had mounted an unsuccessful counter-coup attempt.

"The evacuation is meant to help the work of the soldiers who are in the process of sweeping the city in search of mercenaries that have infiltrated the population," the source said, asking not to be named.

Shooting was heard from the direction of the state broadcaster building, scene of some of the heaviest fighting since Monday but which has remained in the junta's control. A Reuters witness said firing also broke out in downtown Bamako, where administrative buildings were being evacuated and residents were fleeing on foot and by car.

Members of the red beret presidential guard unit attacked important sites in and around Bamako late on Monday in an apparent attempt to unseat the military junta that has been in power since a coup on March 22.

At least 27 people were killed in the fighting, which died down by Tuesday afternoon when junta soldiers overran the presidential guard barracks in the capital.

(Reporting by Adama Diarra, Tiemoko Diallo and Cheikh Amadou Diouara; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Angus MacSwan)