The officer who led a coup last year that plunged Mali into chaos asked for forgiveness from the Malian people during a ceremony meant to heal the rift between soldiers who supported the putsch and the presidential guard who fought to defend the former president.

Coup leader Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo said that he and his brothers and sisters in green-beret uniform "want to ask for forgiveness from Malians as a whole."

After the coup, the green berets led a purge of the red beret-wearing presidential guard. Many red berets were "disappeared," while others were imprisoned and allegedly tortured.

Interim President Dioncounda Traore said Wednesday the ceremony marked the reconciliation of the two sides and announced that all red beret soldiers still incarcerated had been freed.