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West Africa regional bloc suspends Mali after coup

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March 26: People chant in protest against the recent military coup, in Bamako, Mali. (AP)

The West African regional bloc on Tuesday suspended Mali following last week's coup and said it was sending a delegation there within 24 hours in a bid to restore democracy.

The announcement was made by Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the commission head of the Economic Community of West African States. The United States, the European Union and France already have cut off aid to the impoverished country since mutinous soldiers seized control.

"The security and political situation (in Mali) ... dangerously threatens not only the peace and security in Mali but also the peace, stability and development of all the member countries of ECOWAS," Ouedraogo said Tuesday.

The whereabouts of ousted Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure remain unknown. He was due to retire at the end of his term next month. The coup leaders said it was Toure's incompetence in dealing with a two-month-old insurgency in the country's north that pushed them to seize power.

As officials from the regional bloc met in Ivory Coast, hundreds of demonstrators from Mali called on the delegation to take action.

"We do not recognize the soldiers as our leaders. We do not recognize them today, tomorrow or next year," shouted Amadou Maga, a Malian who lives in Abidjan.

Mohammed Decko, the head of a Malian association who wore a shirt with the image of ousted president, said: "We want the soldiers back in their barracks. ... This coup is putting Mali back 20 years."

It was 21 years ago in 1991 that Toure ousted the country's military leader in a coup d'etat that came after months of protests.

The former general, who once headed the country's parachute commandos, was dubbed "The Soldier of Democracy," after he handed power to civilians a year later, then retreated from public life.

He re-emerged to win the 2002 and 2007 presidential elections, and was due to retire at the end of his term next month.