Announcing his resignation with immediate effect, 75-year-old President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita also said that both the government and Mali's national assembly would be dissolved.

Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita poses for a picture during the G5 Sahel summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania. June 30, 2020.
Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita poses for a picture during the G5 Sahel summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania. June 30, 2020. (Ludovic Marin / Reuters)

Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has announced his resignation with immediate effect after rebel soldiers launched a coup.

In an address on state television, the 75-year-old also said in the early hours of Wednesday morning, that both the government and Mali's national assembly would be dissolved.

"I would like at this precise moment, while thanking the Malian people for their support throughout these long years and the warmth of their affection, to tell you of my decision to relinquish my duties," Keita said.

Mutinous soldiers had detained Mali’s president and prime minister after surrounding a residence and firing into the air in an apparent coup attempt after several months of demonstrations calling for President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s ouster.

The soldiers moved freely through the streets of Bamako, making it increasingly clear that they were in control of the capital city. There was no immediate comment from the soldiers, who hail from the very same military barracks in Kati where an earlier coup originated more than eight years ago.

A regional official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to journalists, confirmed that the president and prime minister had been detained Tuesday evening.

The dramatic escalation capped off a day of political chaos in Mali, where the UN and former coloniser France have spent more than seven years trying to stabilise the country since the 2012 coup allowed an insurgency to take hold in the West African nation.

Condemnations pour in 

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres had demanded "the immediate and unconditional release" of Mali's president and members of his government after they were seized by rebel soldiers.

"The secretary general strongly condemns these actions and calls for the immediate restoration of constitutional order and rule of law in Mali," a spokesman for Guterres said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also said it had decided to close its member states' borders with Mali after mutinying soldiers detained President Keita.

ECOWAS said in a statement it was also suspending all financial flows between its 15 members and Mali and suspending Mali from its decision-making bodies.

It called on the ECOWAS commission to impose sanctions on the "putschists and their partners and collaborators".

The United Nations Security Council is due to hold emergency talks on the crisis on Wednesday afternoon, diplomats in New York said.

The meeting was requested by France and Niger and will take place behind closed doors, a UN diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Gunfire at army base

Residents and security sources said on Tuesday there was gunfire at the army base in Kati, where a mutiny in 2012 led to a coup d'etat.

"Yes, mutiny. The military has taken up arms," a security source said.

Armored tanks and military vehicles could be seen on the streets of Kati, located only 15 kilometres (less than 10 miles) from the capital Bamako.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the latest turmoil to wrack Mali.

In the nearby capital of Bamako, government workers fled their offices as armed men began detaining officials including the country's finance minister Abdoulaye Daffe.

“Officials are being arrested — it's total confusion,” said an officer at Mali's Ministry of Internal Security, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to journalists.

The Norwegian Embassy also issued an advisory for its citizens which warned a possible military mutiny was under way.  The French Embassy in Bamako tweeted that residents of Kati and Bamako should stay indoors amid the latest developments.

READ MORE: 'Mali, Burkina Faso troops carried out almost 150 extrajudicial killings'

Rebellion

An officer at Kati camp told AFP that the gunfire was an act of "rebellion" and many soldiers were unhappy with Mali's political situation. 

"We want change," the officer said.

A source who handles security for non-governmental organisations in Mali said gunfire had also been heard near the prime minister's office.

A military spokesman confirmed that gunshots were fired at the base in Kati, but said he did not have any further information.

READ MORE: Keita re-elected Mali president in landslide

Mass protests

Opponents of the current president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, have led mass protests under the June 5 Movement banner, calling on him to resign over what they say are his failures to restore security and address corruption.

Regional powers are worried that any prolonged unrest from the protests could derail the fight against militants in the region, many of whom are centred in Mali. 

Their presence has rendered large areas of the centre and north of Mali ungovernable.

READ MORE: Mali opposition rejects West Africa bloc's compromise plan

Keita had hoped that concessions to opponents and recommendations from a mediating delegation of regional leaders would help stem the tide of dissatisfaction.

June 5 Movement against Keita

The loose alliance of opposition and religious leaders has been channelling deep anger over a dire economy, perceived government corruption and brutal conflict.

But the June 5 Movement's push to topple Keita veered into crisis last month when at least 11 people were killed during three days of unrest following a protest.

At least 14 people have been killed in the protests as yet, according to the United Nations and human rights activists.

The opposition group has since rejected attempts at mediation with the 75-year-old president, and vowed to continue staging rallies against him.

Mali's eight-year conflict is thought to be contributing to current political tensions in the country, with Keita under pressure to stop the fighting.

The 2012 mutiny at Kati base led to a coup that toppled then-President Amadou Toumani Toure and contributed to the fall of northern Mali to militants.

The government has since been struggling to contain the insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives since. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies