Surprise disarmament exercise leaves soldier dead in Mali

07 April 2013 - 11:22 By Sapa-AFP
Bullets. File photo.
Bullets. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

A surprise operation in Bamako to disarm police thought to be close to the authors of Mali's 2012 coup sparked a clash that left one soldier dead, a military source said.

A police officer was wounded in the leg during the Saturday raid on a police camp in the Malian capital, the source told AFP.

"It was a policeman who refused to disarm that fired on the soldier who died," the source said. "The same policeman let off another shot by mistake that wounded one of his comrades," he added.

An AFP reporter saw the body of the dead soldier, as well as the wounded policeman, in the courtyard of the police camp.

Soldiers and gendarmes had surrounded the camp before seizing several automatic weapons. Around 10 police were arrested including three women, but five escaped over the camp's perimeter wall, the source said.

He said any police officer bearing heavy weapons was breaking the law.

A security ministry official told AFP: "The fun is over. We can no longer accept this disarray at a time when the international community is helping Mali recover."

Saturday's raid follows a reported shootout between police and trade unionists overnight Thursday in which four people were allegedly wounded.

The trade unionists dispute promotions awarded to police officers reputedly close to the coup makers and influential in the capital.

Ethnic Tuareg rebels seized the country's vast arid north in the chaos following the March 2012 coup before losing control to well-armed Islamists.

A French-led intervention quickly drove insurgents from most of their northern strongholds, but significant pockets of resistance remain in the Ifoghas mountains as well as in the cities of Gao and Timbuktu.

France is to start withdrawing its 4 000 troops at the end of April, and plans to leave a "support force" of 1 000 soldiers after elections promised for July.