March 22 - Renegade soldiers say they have seized power in the West African state. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION Renegade Malian soldiers went on state television on Thursday to declare they had seized power in a coup after the government's failure to quell a nomad-led rebellion in the north. The soldiers of the newly formed National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDR) read out a brief statement after heavy weapons fire rang out around the presidential palace in the capital Bamako throughout the night. Amadou Konare, spokesman for the CNRDR said the committee had decided to assume its responsibilities by putting an end to the incompetent regime of Amadou Toumani Toure. Konare said the CNRDR promised to hand power back to a democratically elected president as soon as the country was reunified and its integrity was no longer threatened. The statements made no reference to the whereabouts of Toure, who for the past decade has presided over one of the more stable governments in West Africa and was due in any case to step down after elections scheduled for late next month. But the nation has struggled to contain a northern rebellion launched late last year by local Tuareg nomads joined by heavily armed fellow Tuaregs returning from Libya after fighting for ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi. The rebellion, in which dozens have been killed and nearly 200,000 civilians have fled their homes, has added a new layer of insecurity to a region where al Qaeda allies have carried out a spate of kidnappings of Westerners and other crimes.