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Shooting hits Malian capital amid counter claims of control

(Xinhua)

15:29, May 01, 2012

BAMAKO, April 30 (Xinhua) -- Heavy shooting hit Mali's capital Bamako on Monday night amid conflicting claims of control by the junta and presidential guards.

The junta told reporters that it maintained control of the city after a shootout with presidential guards.

Meanwhile, the state television ORTM said the guards wearing red berets had the building under control.

The guards of the toppled president, Amadou Toumani Toure, moved to key positions in the city when they met with resistance from supporters of the National Committee for the Redressment of Democracy and Restoration of the State (CNRDRE), which seized power on March 22 and handed it over this month to interim president Diouncounda Traore.

The junta said the guards loyal to the former regime failed in a counter-coup, in which they attempted to take the state broadcasting building and other important places.

The statement by the junta is another sign of its continued strength after surrendering power.

On April 16, the junta arrested 22 former military and civilian officials to the surprise of the regional bloc ECOWAS, which mediated a deal for the junta to transfer power. The arrestees were released days later.

Under the agreement, the junta holds the portfolios of defense, security and territorial administration in a government of 24 ministers under Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra.

Ousted president Toure left for Senegal 10 days ago after rendered his resignation as president, whose term was due to expire this month.

Mali, once considered a model of democracy in West Africa, is facing twin crises of constitutional rule and territorial integrity.

While the country has a long way to go in the process of restoring democracy, it has a tougher challenge to regain control of the north, where Tuareg rebels declared an independent Azawad state, only weeks after the coup.

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