Global leaders condemn Mali coup amid worry about extremists

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People cheer in celebration as security forces drive through the streets of the capital Bamako, Mali, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, a day after armed soldiers fired into the air outside President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's home and took him into their custody. African and Western leaders condemned on Wednesday the junta that forced Mali's president from power, warning the coup was a deep setback for the West African nation that could threaten the battle against Islamic extremism. (AP Photo)

BAMAKO – African and Western leaders condemned on Wednesday the junta that forced Mali’s president from power, warning the coup was a deep setback for the West African nation that could threaten the battle against Islamic extremism.

Soldiers calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People promised that they would ultimately hand power to a transitional civilian government but gave no timeline. Junta members urged Malians to return to business as usual.

A day earlier, armed soldiers fired into the air outside President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s home and took him into their custody. A distressed Keita announced his resignation on television.

Condemnation of the coup was strong and swift from many quarters, reflecting international concern about instability in Mali and West Africa more broadly amid increasing attacks by Islamic extremists and the ensuing economic fallout, which has been among the drivers of illegal migration to Europe.

The African Union suspended Mali from the bloc, and the West African bloc ECOWAS said it would stop all economic, trade and financial flows and transactions between member-states and Mali.

Former colonizer France, which has worked to stabilize the country since leading a 2013 military operation to oust extremists from power in the north, called for an immediate return to civilian rule. The United States urged dialogue.

“The priority is to not lose the fight against terrorism,” said a French official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be publicly named according to official policy.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council called for the immediate release of Keita, the prime minister and others.