Malian soldiers have taken up arms and staged an apparent mutiny at a key base in Kati, a town close to the capital, Bamako.
The developing situation on Tuesday comes amid a weeks-long political crisis that has seen opposition protesters taking to the streets to demand the departure of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, accusing him of allowing the country’s economy to collapse and mishandling a worsening security situation.
There were reports of senior politicians and army officers being held but it was not clear by whom.
Amid the confusion, opposition protesters gathered at a square in Bamako while regional and international powers urged the soldiers to return to the barracks and foreign embassies advised their citizens to stay indoors.
Here are the latest updates:
16:40 GMT – Protesters gather in Bamako
In Bamako, hundreds of people have poured into the square around the Independence Monument, the site of mass protests since June, calling for Keita to quit over alleged corruption and worsening security.
“Whether he’s been arrested or not, what is certain is that his end is near. God is granting our prayers. IBK is finished,” Haidara Assetou Cisse, a teacher, told Reuters news agency, referring to the president by his initials.
“We have come out today to call for the total resignation of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Because we heard there were shots fired by the military and we have come out to help our soldiers get rid of IBK,” opposition supporter Aboubacar Ibrahim Maiga said.
Protesters have also attacked the justice minister’s personal offices, setting parts of them on fire, a Reuters witness said.
16:07 GMT: Mali PM calls for dialogue
Malian Prime Minister Boubou Cisse called on the mutinying soldiers to stand down and urged dialogue to resolve the situation.
In a statement, he said the mutiny “reflects a certain frustration that could have legitimate causes. The government of Mali asks all the authors of these acts to stand down.”
16:04 GMT: France condemns Mali ‘mutiny’
France denounced “in the strongest terms” what it described as a mutiny launched by soldiers in Mali.
“France has become aware of the mutiny that has taken place today in Kati, Mali. It condemns in the strongest terms this serious event,” Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said in a statement that also urged the soldiers to return to their barracks “without delay”.
15:50 GMT: ECOWAS urges Mali soldiers to ‘return to barracks’
The West African bloc ECOWAS called on the soldiers “to return to their barracks without delay”.
“This mutiny comes at a time when, for several months now, ECOWAS has been taking initiatives and conducting mediation efforts with all the Malian parties,” the bloc said in a statement.
15:30 GMT: Warnings of possible mutiny
Gunfire was heard at an army base near Bamako, with the Norwegian embassy talking of a possible military mutiny. Soldiers fired their guns into the air in the base in Kati, some 15km (9 miles) from Bamako.
Witnesses said armoured tanks and military vehicles could be seen on the streets of Kati, The Associated Press news agency reported.
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Al Jazeera and news agencies