Mali Interim President, Assimi Goita, targeted in an attempted stabbing attack after Eid al-Adha prayers at the Grand Mosque in the capital Bamako is ‘well’ and in stable condition.
The presidential office said a major tragedy was averted on Tuesday as security personnel promptly apprehended two armed men who attacked Goita at the mosque.
Reports said Colonel Goita, who has led two military coups within nine months, was whisked away amid the confusion, with an AFP news agency journalist claiming to have seen blood at the incident scene.
However, it was not clear who may have been wounded in the ensuing fracas to keep the rampaging attackers in check
In an official Twitter post on Tuesday, the presidency said; “The attacker was immediately overpowered by security. Investigations are ongoing.”
And in statement broadcast on state television channel ORTM later on Tuesday, Goita announced that he was doing “very well” following the attack.
“That’s part of being a leader, there are always malcontents,” he said, adding; “There are people who at any time may want to try things to cause instability.”
According to official reports, the attack occurred as an Imam was directing worshippers outside the mosque for a ritual animal sacrifice.
Confirming the incident, Religious Affairs Minister, Mamadou Kone said the attackers, including someone wielding a sharp knife, lunged at Goita during prayers for the Islamic festival of Eid-al-Adha.
Kone said one of men “tried to kill the President with a knife” but was promptly arrested by security operatives.
Also corroborating the story, Director of the mosque, Latus Toure, said the assailants wounded someone else instead of the President.
Similarly, Al Jazeera said on the ground reports suggested that the attacker “posed as an usher” for the mosque.
“When Goita was passing by, he [the attacker] lunged at him. Another report said he was stabbed in the arm, but these are not confirmed yet”, an Al Jazeera’s correspondent said.
The reports further said; “Right now we’re not clear whether the attacker is a member of the armed groups that have been operating in Mali and across the border in Burkina Faso and Niger. Or a military officer or even a civilian who is not happy with the government.”
Meanwhile, a Presidential aide said Goita was “safe and sound”, adding that the President arrived at the military camp of Kati, outside the capital, “where security has been reinforced”.
Goita’s Second Coming
Goita, 38, was sworn into office last month despite facing a diplomatic backlash over his second power grab in nine months. However, he has promised that the country will return to civilian rule within the shortest possible time.
The troubled West African country has witnessed months of political upheaval as the government continues to battle a Jihadist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and created more displaced persons.
In August 2020, Colonel Goita had led a military coup that removed embattled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after months of anti-government protests over perceived corruption and the failure to tackle a deteriorating security crisis that first emerged in 2012.
Late in May this year, Goita, then serving as Mali’s vice president in a transitional government tasked with leading the country back to civilian rule in February 2022, seized power again after accusing Interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane of failing to consult him about a cabinet reshuffle.
Mali has been unsettled since 2012 when mutinous soldiers overthrew the president of a decade.
The power vacuum led to an Islamic uprising that took control of the country’s northern cities, including Timbuktu and Gao. But a French-led campaign removed the fighters from the northern cities in 2013.
A peace agreement was signed in 2015 by three parties – the government, a coalition of groups that seek autonomy in northern Mali and a pro-government militia.
However, the fighters quickly regrouped in the desert areas and began launching frequent attacks on the Malian army and its allies.
Confirmed as affiliates of Al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS), the extremists have moved from the arid north to more populous central Mali since 2015 where their presence has stoked animosity and violence between ethnic groups. – With additional reports from Al Jazeera and AFP