Man accused of trying to kill Mali junta boss

A man accused of the assassination attempt on Mali’s military strongman Assimi Goita, the figure behind two coups in less than a year, has died in custody, the government said on Sunday.

The suspect, whose identity has not been revealed, had been taken into custody after the assassination attempt on Bamako’s large mosque on Tuesday. “During investigations … his health deteriorated” and he was later hospitalized, but “unfortunately he died”, the government said in a statement. It added that an autopsy had been ordered immediately to determine the cause of death.

A man armed with a knife ran at Goita after prayers for Qurban Bayram, also known as Eid al-Adha, on Tuesday, according to a journalist from Agence France-Presse (AFP) at the scene. Goita was lost by his security detail and later appeared on state television to say he was doing “very well”, and downplayed the significance of the attack.

“It’s part of being a leader, there’s always bad content,” he said. “There are people who want to try things at any time to cause instability,” he explained.

His assailant, a young man wearing jeans and a white shirt, was arrested on the spot and abducted by Malian intelligence.

The suspect was never presented to judicial authorities, a source requesting anonymity told AFP on Sunday. His identity was not revealed, but Commissioner Sadio Tomoda said late Tuesday that he was a teacher without elaborating. Prosecutors had launched an investigation into the incident.

On Sunday, the government said the suspect’s death was not an obstacle to continuing the investigation, “especially since preliminary evidence and collective intelligence suggest he was not an isolated element.”

Political instability

The attack limited months of political unrest in a country that has rarely had stability since becoming independent from France in 1960.

Goita, a special forces colonel in the late 1930s, led a coup in August last year that fired President-elect Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after weeks of protests over transplants and a bloody extremist uprising.

The junta, facing international condemnation, handed over power to a civilian transitional government that promised to restore civilian rule in February 2022. But in late May, Goita, who was vice president of the transitional government, fired President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, saying they had tried to “sabotage” the submission. In June, with Goita as interim president, a new government was introduced with military personnel in key roles.

When the African Union (AU) and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS put pressure on the country, Goita promised that the government would keep all commitments and promised to hold “credible, fair and open elections”.

Mali’s neighbors and allies have viewed the crisis with concern and fear the impact of efforts to stop an extremist uprising that is developing across the Sahel region. The bloody campaign broke out in northern Mali in 2012 and has since spread to Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

France, the mainstay of the anti-extremist operation, has been particularly critical of the military takeover of Mali. It suspended military cooperation after the second coup and then announced a major downsizing of its 5,100-man Barkhane mission.


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