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Soldiers stage coup in Mali

BAMAKO -- Renegade soldiers said they seized power in Mali on Thursday and ordered its borders closed, threatening to reignite instability in a Saharan region shaken by the conflict in Libya.

The overnight coup bid was led by low-ranking soldiers angry at the government's failure to stamp out a two-month-old separatist rebellion in the north of the west African state.

Heavy weapons fire rang out throughout the night as the presidential palace came under attack. The whereabouts of President Amadou Toumani Toure, who oversaw a decade of relative stability, are unknown.

Mali's neighbors, the United Nations and world powers from Paris to Washington called for a return to constitutional rule.

The 7,000-strong army has for weeks sought better weapons to fight northern Tuareg rebels bolstered by heavily armed ethnic allies who fled Libya after fighting for ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi.

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-- Reuters