The spark for the mutiny came during a visit to Bamako’s main barracks by Mali’s defence minister. For weeks, discontent has been building as ethnic Tuareg rebels—flush with heavy weaponry stolen from Libya, and better organised than at any time in the past—have launched a series of attacks, sacking beleaguered garrisons and inflicting heavy casualties on the demoralised Malian army.

When the minister failed to assuage soldiers’ concerns that the government had a grip on the insurgency, troops fired angrily into the air. Hours later they swept into Bamako, stormed the state broadcaster’s offices and laid siege to the presidential palace. A thousand miles to the northeast, junior soldiers placed their superiors under lock and key.

Where things go from here depends on the junta’s leaders and how well they are able to control the soldiers, gendarmes and police who have taken charge of Bamako and who have been firing sporadically to intimidate residents and, in some cases, drunkenly looting the presidential palace.

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