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Mali Interim President Attacked, Taken to Hospital

  • VOA News

Protesters occupy Mali's presidential palace in the capital Bamako, May 21, 2012.

Protesters occupy Mali's presidential palace in the capital Bamako, May 21, 2012.

Mali's interim president has been rushed to a hospital after being beaten by protesters who broke into the presidential palace.

VOA correspondent Anne Look in the capital, Bamako, reports that interim president Dioncounda Traore was taken away in an ambulance after Monday's attack.

She spoke to the president's chief of staff, Souleymane Niafo, who said Traore's life is not in danger, but that he is being treated for injuries. The full extent of Mr. Traore's injuries is unknown.

The incident occurred a day after the West African regional bloc ECOWAS and Mali's military junta reached an agreement that would allow Mr. Traore to remain in power past Tuesday, when his mandate was due to end.

The chief of staff says marchers came to the palace Monday and demanded the interim president step down. He says the protesters then clashed with guards and forced their way inside the palace and into Mr. Traore's office, where they attacked him.

He says authorities were eventually able to get the protesters out of the palace.

Mali has suffered through weeks of political turmoil since military officers seized power in a coup March 22.

Traore was installed as interim president last month, as ECOWAS pressured junta leaders for a return to constitutional order.

ECOWAS and the junta leaders had reached a deal Sunday that would allow the interim leader to remain in office until the country holds elections and transitions back to civilian rule.

The accord was signed after ECOWAS agreed to give the coup's leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, all the benefits and privileges of a former head of state.

In an interview with VOA on Monday, government spokesman Hamadoune Toure called the agreement "a positive move." He said the junta leader's status as a former head of state does not mean he will hold sway during the transition process.

"It's not recognizing him to have a say, but they [ECOWAS] said he will have advantages recognized to all former heads of state. They invited him to work as a team with the president and with the prime minister for the supreme interests of Mali," he said.

Soldiers ousted Mali's elected government in March on the grounds that it was failing to handle to a Tuareg rebellion in the north. The rebels and Islamist groups now control more than half the country.