BAMAKO, 26 July 2021 – The man accused of trying to stab the junta leader in Mali, Assimi Goita, has died in a hospital where he was under guard.
A government statement said the man’s health deteriorated while he was in custody and that he died in hospital where he had been rushed for medical attention.
Human rights groups have criticized Mali’s military leaders of torturing the man in custody and only rushing him to a hospital when it was evident he would die in custody.
Assimi Goita escaped the knife attack “safe and sound”.
It occurred while Assimi Goita was attending prayers at the Grande Mosque in the capital, Bamako.
The self-declared President of Mali had joined other Muslim faithful for Eid ul-Adha prayers at the time of the attack.
The presidential palace in Bamako said the incident involved one attacker, but the French News Agency (AFP) said two men were involved, with only one of them wielding a knife.
Nothing is known about the fate of the second man, although rights groups claim he is undergoing torture in detention and could die in custody.
Officials in Bamako have not reacted to the allegations of the use of deadly torture to try to extract confessions from the men.
Bamako has said the cause of death is under investigation.
Immediately following the failed knife attack, presidential guards apprehended the attacker.
Mali’s religious affairs minister, Mamadou Kone called it an assassination attempt, saying the man had “tried to kill the president with a knife”.
Assimi Goita was rushed out of the mosque and driven to the safety of a military base in the outskirts of the capital, according to the presidential statement on the incident.
Mammoth crowds had gathered at the mosque for prayers marking the start of the Muslim holiday also known as the Festival of Sacrifice.
No group has, so far, claimed responsibility for the attack in which someone else – another worshipper – was injured, according to the director of the mosque.
It remains unclear if the two men acted alone or as part of a wider conspiracy.
Assimi Goita, who hitherto was a colonel in the Malian army, is known for leading the country’s last two military coups – the last of which saw him arresting, detaining and forcing the acting president and prime minister to resign before declaring himself president last May.
His first coup in August 2020 culminated in the ousting of former Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
The Malian junta leader has promised to hand over to an elected civilian government next year, in keeping with the transition calendar outlined after the August 2020 coup.
The African Union, the European Union, and the Economic Community of West African States are among the organizations who continue to insist that the calendar be respected.
America has suspended military cooperation with Mali over the controversial anti-constitutional government in power in Bamako.
France, which has a force of over 5,000 deployed to fight jihadist militants in the Sahel Region including in Mali, has threatened to cut off military cooperation with the West African nation should Bamako embrace more radical Islam.