BAMAKO Forces of Mali's ruling military junta battled troops loyal to ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure in several parts of the capital Bamako for a second day on Tuesday, forcing residents to flee their homes.
Shooting cracked out from the direction of the state television building and a barracks housing the Toure loyalists, Reuters witnesses said.
The junta said the clashes, which broke out late on Monday, were an attempt to reverse a March 22 coup that ousted Toure and was backed by foreign fighters. More than 15 people have been killed, according to medical sources.
The coup, which derailed April elections meant to replace Toure and took place in the midst of a rebellion in Mali's desert north, has been internationally condemned. West African regional bloc ECOWAS has said it plans to deploy a force to oversee a transition back to democratic rule.
Speaking to a local radio station overnight, junta chief Captain Amadou Sanogo said the fighting broke out after he had sent some units to the presidential guard barracks to tell them that Malian forces should remain united.
"During the exchange between my guys and the paratroopers, some of them decided to battle us once and for all," he said.
"They tried to seize Kati (army base), take control of the radio and television and the airport. But we had been prepared. We managed to kill some and captured others. Among the captives there are foreign troops that we'll show on TV."
An official at the emergency services of the Gabriel Toure hospital in Bamako said they had recorded 11 dead by gunshots and about 30 wounded as of Monday night, while another doctor at a hospital in Kati said they had recorded four deaths.
ECOWAS PURSUES DIALOGUE
Djibril Bassole, Burkina Faso's foreign minister and an ECOWAS mediator in the crisis, said the bloc had sent no troops to Mali yet.
"No decision has been taken in that light," Bassole told Reuters by telephone from the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou.
Bassole said planned talks in Ouagadougou between the junta and ECOWAS mediators on Tuesday had been cancelled because a plane sent the previous day to collect junta officials had not been allowed to land in Bamako.
"As ECOWAS mediators, we are still available to continue the dialogue, which will help Mali normalize its political institutions and bring the army to submit itself under the authority of a civilian government," Bassole said.
The director of Bamako's airport told Reuters on Tuesday that the airport was shut due to the fighting.
The junta said in a recorded statement, played repeatedly on state television, that it remained in control of the state broadcaster, the airport and the Kati base - which has been the headquarters of the junta leaders.
"These locations have been secured and are in the hands of the security forces," the statement, read by Lieutenant Mohamed Issa Ouedraogo, a junta spokesman, said.
The renewed fighting could be a setback for the gold-producing West African nation after the junta had agreed to an interim government as a first step to restoring constitutional order after the coup.
(Additional reporting by Cheikh Amadou Diouara and Bate Felix; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Angus MacSwan)