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France beat Argentina 23-21 in Rugby World Cup

Ousted President Touré tells RFI he is safe in Mali

media Malians who back the military coup d'etat, demonstrate in the capital Bamako, Reuters/David Lewis

Mali's ousted leader Amadou Toumani Touré says he is in the country and safe and is not being held by the junta. The fate of the 63-year-old Touré had raised concern over the past six days, since renegade soldiers forced him to flee as they fired on the presidency last week in a mutiny that led to a full-blown coup.


Touré was chased out of power just five weeks before the end of his term in office ahead of elections on 29 April, which the junta has since suspended with no fresh poll date fixed.

"I am doing well and my family also," he said in an exclusive interview with Boniface Vignon of RFI's French service. "What is important to know, is that I am not being held prisoner.”

While members of his entourage said Touré was under the protection of his elite paratrooper "Red Beret" guard, coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo had said he was safe in a secret location, raising concerns he was being detained.

The mutineers denounced an "incompetent" government and said they had not been equipped to deal with a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north of the west African nation.

Lawmakers and politicians denied access to parliament by the junta have called for a return to constitutional order.

But several thousand people marched in Bamako on Wednesday brandishing banners reading "Down with France" and "Down with the international community", while shouting their support for Sanogo.

The junta has been shunned by world powers and on Tuesday the nation was suspended by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, following a similar move by the African Union.

A delegation of army chiefs arrived in Bamako Wednesday to prepare a venue for a mediation team of six heads of state led by regional strongman Blaise Compaoré, president of Burkina Faso, expected to arrive Thursday.

West African leaders have already warned that the region's troops are on standby if the junta fails to engage in dialogue.

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