Coup plotting soldiers in Mali on Tuesday detained President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse, one of their leaders said.
“We can tell you that the president and the prime minister are under our control,” the leader, who requested anonymity, told AFP.
He added that the pair had been “arrested” at Keita’s residence in the capital Bamako.
It was learnt that the soldiers who were junior officers had earlier in the day mutinied at the Kati military base about 15 km (9 miles) outside of Bamako and rounded up a number of senior civilian and military officials.
Another military official, who also declined to be named, said the president and prime minister were in an armored vehicle en route to Kati.
Keita has faced mass protests since June, with protesters calling for his resignation over alleged corruption and worsening security.
The ECOWAS leaders intervened, calling for a Government of National Unity. But the protesters rebuffed the leaders, saying any solution short of Keita leaving office, was not negotiable.
The United States, France and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have all condemned the mutiny.
Prime Minister Boubou Cisse issued a brief statement calling for dialogue and urging mutinous soldiers to stand down.
Cisse said that his government also called on the participants of the mutiny to calm down, saying there is no reason to use such act whose “uncertain outcomes” could harm Mali.
“The government calls for reason and a patriotic sense and asks for the arms to be put down,” he continued.
However, he did not confirm in the press release if some of his government members were taken by the mutinous military officers.
The mutiny began with gunshots in the early morning on Tuesday in Kati, a town near the Malian capital Bamako.
An officer reportedly took advantage of Tuesday’s morning rally to incite soldiers to revolt.
“They fired in the air for long minutes before heading to arsenals,” said a defence ministry source, adding that since then, access to the camp is impossible, because the road is blocked.
Some residents in Kati reached by Xinhua said gunshots were heard in the early morning at the military camp of this city located less than ten km from the presidential palace of Koulouba.
According to witnesses, traffic was interrupted between Bamako and Kati where markets and shops are closed and the population seems panicked.
In Bamako, reports of the arrest of government ministers and of the President of the National Assembly by heavily armed men circulated on social media and raised fears of an attempt to seize power by the army.
The mutiny unravelled as the Movement of June 5 – Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP) on Tuesday began a week of “continuous activities” of protest in Mali and within the Malian diaspora to force President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign. Keita has served as President of Mali since 2013.
A mutiny in 2012 at the Kati base led to a military coup that toppled then-President Amadou Toumani Toure and hastened the fall of Mali’s north to jihadist militants, who continue to operate across the north and centre of the West African country.
So far, the military officers who started the fresh mutiny have not made any official declaration.