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Sun, 12 Jul 2020 07:56 - Updated Sun, 12 Jul 2020 07:56

Mali opposition says headquarters raided after mass protest

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Mali’s opposition coalition said security forces had raided its headquarters on Saturday in the wake of violent protests against the president that saw the temporary occupation of state buildings and the arrest of a protest leader.

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On Friday, police fired gunshots and tear gas to disperse protesters who had occupied parliament and the state broadcaster as part of a civil disobedience campaign aimed at forcing President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign for failing to tackle Mali’s security and economic problems.

Security forces on Saturday morning targeted the headquarters of CMAS, an opposition movement led by influential Muslim cleric Imam Mahmoud Dicko that is part of the M5-RFP opposition coalition, the group said.

“While our activists were in a meeting, they came and attacked and ransacked our headquarters,” M5-RFP spokesman Nouhoum Togo said.

One protest leader, Issa Kaou Djim, has been detained and remains in custody, Togo said earlier.

There was no immediate comment from police.

The protest came after the coalition rejected concessions from Keita aimed at resolving a political stand-off that began after a disputed legislative election in March.

Mali’s neighbours and outside powers fear the impasse could further destabilise the country and jeopardise a joint military campaign against Islamist insurgents in the West African Sahel region.

Three protesters were killed on Friday and several others seriously wounded, according to the United Nations MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali, whose human rights division monitored the protests.

Keita issued a statement deploring the violence and said an investigation would be launched.

“However, I would like to reassure our people once again of my desire to continue dialogue and reiterate my readiness to take all measures in my power with a view to calm the situation down,” he said late on Friday.

The streets of Bamako appeared largely quiet following the protest. State television ORTM resumed broadcasting after going off air when its building was occupied.

Social media platforms Twitter and Facebook were restricted late on Friday, Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said. Internet access remained patchy on Saturday.

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