23 May 2012

Assaulted leader now safe

8:24 am on 23 May 2012

Interim president Dioncounda Traore of Mali is out of hospital and in a safe location after knocked unconscious by protesters, who attacked the presidential palace.

Mr Traore was attacked a day after a deal was struck with coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo for him to remain in office for a year

The BBC reports he was unconscious when he arrived at hospital with a head wound, but was later released.

The protesters were angry that Mr Traore's 40 day mandate, which had been due to expire on Monday, was extended. They see him as a member of the political class, which they blame for Mali's problems.

Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra said he is ashamed that Mr Traore was beaten on Monday.

In a TV address, he appealed for calm and ordered the protests to stop.

''I am ashamed to relate what happened this morning,'' he said.

''I'm asking the young people who protested today not to protest again. I have understood their complaints and I'll make sure that the right people hear about them.

''Given the situation that this country is in right now, vandalism and looting is not what we need. It's not going to help the reconstruction of the nation,'' he said.

Captain Sanogo seized power in March, but handed power to Mr Traore, the former speaker of parliament, within three weeks in the face of intense international pressure and the rapid advance of rebels, who have seized the whole of the north - an area the size of France.

As part of the deal, the BBC reports the government is supposed to focus on recovering the north from a mixture of Tuareg separatists and Islamists. Some of the groups have links to al-Qaeda.