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Mali’s ousted leader flees to Senegal

DAKAR, Senegal - The former president of Mali, ousted in a military coup at the end of March, has arrived in Dakar, officials said Friday, in flight from a country still in the grip of the soldiers who forced him out.

Amadou Toumani Toure had been in hiding in a suburban district of Mali’s capital, Bamako, for most of the period since the coup. On Thursday night, according to Senegal officials, he left on a Senegalese government plane with 17 family members and aides, arriving here in the Senegalese capital. Senegal is the only country in the region to have never known either a coup or a civil war.

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Toure, until recently considered one of West Africa’s democratic exemplars, was forced to flee his presidential palace in Bamako on March 22 after an attack by mutinous soldiers. The soldiers, facing international pressure, promised to hand over power to civilians after Toure agreed to give up what remained of his presidency. He had been scheduled to step down before elections this month.

But the military junta reasserted its power this week, calling into question the promised handover of power. More than 20 opposition politicians and former aides to Toure have been arrested, mostly at night, by armed, masked soldiers. The most recent arrests - which the military junta has attributed to a vague, countercoup plot - occurred Wednesday.

Toure is himself a former general. He first came to power in a 1991 coup and subsequently won several elections that were generally considered free.

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