Mali coup leader Amadou Sanogo 'in complete control'

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Media caption,

Capt Sanogo said vandalism was "not our mission, cause or objective"

The leader of a coup in Mali has told the BBC he is in complete control of the country and says his "door is open" for peace talks with Tuareg rebels.

Cap Amadou Sanogo told the BBC he overthrew the government on Wednesday in order to restore security.

He has promised to hand power to an elected government once a northern Tuareg rebellion has been put down.

The troops behind the coup accuse the government of not giving them enough arms to tackle the uprising.

The Tuaregs have forced the army out of several northern towns in recent months.

Talks offer

"Security forces, the air force, everyone, every single civil society member can confirm that right now I'm in total control of the country," Capt Sanogo said in a BBC interview.

He said his priority was to protect civilians and property, and order was being restored.

"People are starting with their daily life: the market is open, transport is working now and I believe I'm getting closer to what I promised my people," he said.

President Amadou Toumani Toure's whereabouts remain unclear, but he is still believed to be under the protection of an elite loyalist squad.

Capt Sanogo called the Tuareg rebels "our brothers" and invited them to peace talks.

"I want all of them to come to the same table right after this interview. My door is open," he said. "We can talk about and work out through the peace process."

He denounced the widespread looting in the capital, Bamako, which followed the coup.

'Vandalism and pillaging'

Mali's state television briefly cut out on Friday evening, sparking rumours that the coup had failed and that Capt Sanogo may have been killed.

But he later appeared on screen himself to reject the rumours and denounce the chaos on the streets.

Reports from Bamako say uniformed men have been looting shops and petrol stations and hijacking cars.

"I deplore the acts of vandalism and pillaging which have occurred," Capt Sanogo said.

"Yesterday, I obtained concrete proof that ill-intentioned individuals were wearing uniforms of the police, the army, in order to break this coup, just to turn the population, to turn opinion against us."

He asked the public to excuse those behind the coup for "all the aggravation caused" and said justice would be done.

"I urge all Malians, at whatever level, to stop without delay these acts of vandalism and pillaging... This is not our mission, nor our cause, nor our objective."

The BBC's West African correspondent, Thomas Fessy, says Capt Sanogo was flanked by officers from several different army units for his address, as a show of military unity.

But it is still unclear whether the whole army is backing the coup leaders, says our correspondent.

Bamako was reported to be quieter on Saturday after several days of unrest.

A coalition of the main political parties has condemned the coup and called for elections, which were due at the end of next month.

The foreign ministers of Kenya, Tunisia and Zimbabwe were all in Bamako at the time of the coup and have been unable to leave.

They are reported to be safe and staying in hotels but the Kenyan minister, Moses Wetangula, said the situation was worrying.

The African Union has suspended Mali from the organisation until constitutional order is restored, while the European Union has suspended its development operations there until the security situation becomes clear.

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