BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A man tried to stab Mali’s transitional President Col. Assimi Goita Tuesday at the Grand Mosque in the capital amid celebrations for the Muslim holiday of sacrifice, Eid al-Adha.
The attempted stabbing happened after the holiday prayers and sermon at the mosque and the imam went to slaughter the sheep, according to witnesses. One man with a knife and another with a gun participated in the attack, said the witnesses. Goita was not hurt and his security team quickly took him away, but one person was injured, they said.
This attempted attack on the interim president comes as Mali has seen several attacks by jihadis in the central part of the country in recent days.
Col. Assimi Goita grabbed power in August 2020 by overthrowing Mali’s democratically elected president. He eventually agreed to a transitional government led by a civilian president and prime minister but on May 24 he ousted those civilian leaders after they announced a Cabinet reshuffle that sidelined two junta supporters without consulting him.
Goita was then sworn in as president of the transitional government in June. He has pledged to keep the country on track to return to civilian rule with an election in February 2022.
Mali has been unsettled since 2012 when mutinous soldiers overthrew the president of a decade. The power vacuum led to an Islamic insurgency that took control of the country’s northern cities, including Timbuktu and Gao. A French-led campaign ousted the jihadis 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 insurgents quickly regrouped in the desert areas and began launching frequent attacks on the Malian army and its allies. The extremists, affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State militant group, have moved from the arid north to more populous central Mali since 2015 where their presence has stoked animosity and violence between ethnic groups.
AP writer Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal contributed.