Thousands in Mali’s capital demand that president step down

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Thousands of people demonstrated in Mali’s capital on Friday to demand the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

At the urging of opposition parties and clerics, the demonstrators in Bamako denounced corruption, arbitrary arrests and the organisation of April’s legislative elections.

They also called for the release of opposition leader Soumaila Cissé, who was kidnapped by armed men in March while campaigning for the elections. The kidnapping in Mali’s north took place in an area controlled by extremist groups linked to al-Qaida.

Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 uprising prompted mutinous soldiers to overthrow the president of a decade. The power vacuum that resulted led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led intervention that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013.

Insurgents remain active in the West African nation, and Mali is also under threat from extremists affiliated with the Islamic State movement. The extremists have been moving from the arid north into more populated central Mali since 2015, stoking animosity and deadly violence between ethnic groups in the region.

The 75-year-old Keita has been in office since 2013.

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