One dead as protest against Mali president turns violent

BAMAKO (AFP) – One person was killed and 20 people injured in Mali’s capital Bamako on Friday, a hospital official said, during a mass rally against embattled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Thousands initially gathered in a central city square to demand that Keita resign over the country’s long-running extremist conflict, economic woes and perceived government corruption.

But the protest afterwards descended into violence – seldom seen in the West African state’s capital – as protesters blocked main thoroughfares, attacked the parliament and stormed the premises of the state broadcaster.

“We have recorded one death in the morgue,” said Yamadou Diallo, a doctor in Bamako’s Gabriel Toure hospital, who added that 20 people had been wounded.

An official from the prime minister’s office also confirmed the death.

The circumstances under which people were wounded and one person was killed were not immediately clear.

The protest, organised by a new opposition coalition, is the third such demonstration in two months – significantly escalating pressure on the 75-year-old president.

Led by influential imam Mahmoud Dicko, the so-called June 5 movement is channelling deep-seated frustrations in war-torn Mali.

The June 5 movement said in a statement on Friday evening that, pending a full evaluation of the details, it held the government responsible for the violence.

It also urged security forces to protect “the bare-handed protesters who are only defending democractic, secular and republican values”.

Friday’s protest came after Keita unsuccessfully floated reforms in a bid to appease opponents this week, having rejected calls to dissolve the parliament and form a transition government.