Ousted Mali President 'Free and Unharmed'
Mali's toppled president Amadou Toumani Toure told French broadcaster RFI on Wednesday that he is "free and unharmed" after a 22 March coup.
"I am free in my country," he said in his first public comments since soldiers ousted him last week. "I think the most important thing today… is to find a way out of the crisis."
Later he told AFP, "I am indeed in Bamako, and thank God my family and I are doing well."
Asked about his location, Toure responded, "Does it matter? What is important to know, is that I am not being held prisoner."
"I am obviously following what is happening, I wish with all my heart that peace and democracy triumph in Mali. I have nothing else to say for the moment," he added.
The fate of the ousted president, 63, was a mystery over the past six days, since renegade soldiers forced him to flee as they fired on the presidential palace last weekend after a protest which snowballed into to a full-blown coup.
The mutineers seized government buildings n Thursday and took over state television to announce they had suspended the constitution and overthrown an "incompetent" government.
They complained they had not been properly equipped to deal with a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north of the west African nation, and that the widows of fallen soldiers had not been compensated.
Members of his entourage said Toure was under protection of his elite paratrooper "Red Beret" guard, but comments by coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo who said he was safe in a secret location led to concerns he had been detained or killed by the mutineers.
On Tuesday, France announced its ambassador Christian Rouyer "was able to speak on the phone to president ATT, as he is affectionately known, who reassured him over his fate."
Toure, 63, a former commander of Mali's paratroop brigade, himself overthrew the government in 1991 before handing over power to civilian authority a year later and winning the moniker "Soldier for Democracy."
He returned to power via the ballot box in 2002. Curiously, Toure was set to step down and retire from public life in April.