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Junta arrests hundreds of opponents

Mali's military junta said it has arrested about 240 people allegedly associated with an attempted coup earlier this week, and that they are shooting guns into the air as a warning as they try to round up more people they blame for the chaos.

"The city is under our complete control. There are patrols going on and there may be some warning shots and testing of weapons but that is all," said Bakary Mariko, a spokesman for the junta.

A group of soldiers in Mali toppled the country's democratically elected president in March.

The junta leaders then handed power over to an interim government in April, but they still wield power.

On Monday evening, soldiers from Mali's parachutist regiment, also known as the Red Berets, attempted a countercoup but all the strategic locations they managed to gain control of were quickly recaptured by forces loyal to the junta leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo.

Fighting in the capital between the junta and soldiers who were trying to oust them has killed at least 12 people.

On Wednesday, Mali's prime minister Cheick Modibo Diarra appeared on state television. He said that there had been efforts to create a situation of panic in Bamako, and he asked the entire population to remain calm.

Some disturbances in Bamako were caused by students who had come out to protest after rumours spread that a leader of a student movement had been killed by forces close to the junta. Mr Diarra denied that the student leader had been killed.

"The rumour was spread just to get masses of students onto the streets and to take advantage of the confusion that would create," Mr Diarra said. "I'm asking all students to stay at home the next few days until we can determine exactly what is going on."

Junta spokesman Mr Mariko said that they have arrested around 140 soldiers from the parachutist regiment and around 100 foreigners that they believe to be mercenaries from the region. He said, however, that the junta was still looking to make further arrests.

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