A man accused of trying to kill Mali’s military strongman Assimi Goita, the figure behind two coups in less than a year, has died in custody.

The suspect, whose identity has not been revealed, was taken into custody following the assassination attempt at Bamako’s Grand Mosque on Tuesday 20 July 2021. According to an AFP news agency reporter at the scene, the man was armed with a knife and lunged at Goita after Eid prayers. Goita was whisked away by his security officials and later appeared on state TV to say he was doing “very well”.

Speaking about the suspect in a statement on Sunday July 25 2021, the government said, “During investigations… his health deteriorated” and he was then hospitalised but “unfortunately, he has died.”

“That’s part of being a leader, there are always malcontents,” Goita said. “There are people who at any time may want to try things to cause instability.”

His attacker, a young-looking man dressed in jeans and a white shirt, was apprehended at the scene and taken away by the Malian intelligence services.  The suspect was never presented to judicial authorities, a source requesting anonymity told AFP on Sunday. His identity was not revealed, but Commissioner Sadio Tomoda said late Tuesday that he was a teacher, without elaborating.

Prosecutors had opened an inquiry into the incident. On Sunday, the government said the suspect’s death was not an obstacle to continuing the investigation, “especially since preliminary evidence and intelligence gathered indicate that he was not an isolated element”.

The attack capped months of political turmoil in a country that has rarely enjoyed stability since gaining independence from France in 1960.

-AFP