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Mali Coup Leader Pledges Safe Return of African Ministers

Mali's coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo has pledged the safe release of three top African foreign officials stranded in Bamako after the putsch, an African Union source said Saturday.

AU Commission chief Jean Ping spoke to Sanogo on the phone on Friday and was assured the foreign ministers of Kenya and Zimbabwe, as well as a Tunisian secretary of state in charge of Arab and African affairs would return safely.

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Mali's Tuareg Rebels Fight On as World Slams Coup

Mali's Tuareg rebels pressed on with a campaign to seize the north as mutinous soldiers faced a global backlash Friday for staging a coup over the government's handling of the insurrection.

Europe suspended aid amid a chorus of rebukes and African security chiefs called an emergency meeting over the coup in a west African country key to fighting trans-frontier drug trafficking and growing terrorism.

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EU Calls for Quick Return of Constitution after Mali Coup

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called for the constitution in Mali to be restored "very quickly" on Friday after soldiers took power in a coup.

"We deeply regret and condemn the coup d'etat in Mali," Ashton said on arrival for a meeting of EU foreign ministers that included a discussion on the Sahel region, including the situation in Mali.

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Mansour Says Lebanese Community in Mali ‘Safe’

Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said on Thursday that the Lebanese community in Mali is safe as renegade soldiers in the west African country claimed that they seized power.

Mansour revealed that he had made some contacts to inquire about the status of the Lebanese community.

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Mali Soldiers Claim Coup over Regime 'Incompetence'

Renegade Mali soldiers shot their way to the presidency and forced the head of state to flee Thursday, claiming on television to have ousted an "incompetent regime" and dissolved state institutions.

The putschists, calling themselves the National Committee for the Establishment of Democracy, said they had acted due to government's "inability" to put down a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north.

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Fed-Up with Northern Rebellion, Mali Soldiers Revolt

Scores of Malian soldiers mutinied on Wednesday, firing into the air and seizing the state broadcasting station amid anger over what they say is lack of equipment to stamp out a Tuareg rebellion.

Dozens of soldiers created panic on the streets of Bamako, with people running in all directions, as shots rung out wildly. They then occupied the Malian Radio-Television Office (ORTM) at around 1630 GMT, also firing off rounds inside the building.

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U.N.: Mali Clashes Force 172,000 to Flee Their Homes

Clashes between the army and Tuareg rebels in northern Mali have forced 172,000 people to flee their homes since mid-January, the United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) said Thursday.

"The number of people displaced by the conflict reached more than 172,000 at the beginning of March, including more than 90,000 who have fled abroad, mostly to Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger," read a statement from the agency.

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Malian Army in Control after Tuareg Attacks

The Malian army has taken control of three northern towns which were attacked by Tuareg rebels, leading to two days of fierce clashes, a military source said Friday.

"The Malian army is back in control in Menaka, Tessalit and Aguelhok. Reinforcements are in place," said a military source from regional army headquarters.

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Mali Troops, Tuareg Rebels Battle for Second Day

Malian troops and Tuareg fighters clashed Wednesday in Aguelhok in northeastern Mali, a day after rebels attempted to seize another nearby town, witnesses said.

"Since 5:00 am (05:00 GMT) this morning an exchange of fire between a group of Tuareg rebels and the Malian army has been heard in Aguelhok. Heavy weapons fire has been heard near the military camp," a prominent resident in the town said.

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Mali Army Boosts Forces in Qaida-plagued North

Mali's army has deployed extra troops and military equipment to its largely-desert north where Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb operates, officials said Friday.

"The Malian army has deployed men, equipment and over 200 vehicles to the north," an administrative source said.

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