Two armed men, including one who wielded a knife, attacked Mali’s interim President Assimi Goita during Tuesday’s Muslim Eid Mubarak festival payers in the nation’s capital Bamako, official sources confirmed.
Details remained scanty, but eyewitnesses and diplomatic sources said some arrests had been made and Col. Goita, 37, was “safe and well” after being evacuated from the scene of the attack at the Great Mosque in Bamako.
At least one worshipper was wound, and it was unclear if Goita was injured, but an official investigation has been launched into the incident, the sources added.
Col. Goita led a coup in August 2020 against the government of elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, and another putsch last May ousting a transition government in which he was vice President.
Following the second coup, and Goita’s assumption of the presidency, the regional bloc ECOWAS and the African Union both suspended Mali’s membership while France, the former colonial power in Mali, and the U.S. also suspended military cooperation and assistance to Mali.
But Goita has consistently pledged to respect the political transition timetable including the conduct of a referendum next October and general elections in February 2022 to return the country to civilian government.
Mali has been suffering from terrorism, separatist and jihadist insurgencies since 2012, which have spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
In spite of the presence of some 15,000 UN Mission in Mali, MINUSA, and more than 5,000 French forces in the region, hundreds of soldiers and civilians have been killed with hundreds of thousands of others displaced in the deadly insecurity in Mali and the Sahel region.
Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan, the ECOWAS chief mediator on the Mali crisis, has undertaken several peace missions to Bamako.
An AU delegation just-ended consultations with Malian Prime Minister Choguel Maiga, who had assured that the transition programme was progressing.
Tuesday’s knife attack underscores the fragility of the political and security situation in Mali.