Here's what we know: this morning a band of junior military officers announced they had seized control of Mali from President Amadou Toumani Toure. Adopting the title National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDR), the group has reportedly taken over the presidential palace and national television station, and arrested several ministers.
Former colonial power France quickly condemned the action; others followed suit. News from inside the country has been patchy, and as yet we have few firm answers about what it all means. But the convulsions in neighbouring Libya during the past year certainly haven't helped.
It looks bad ...
Mali has been considered one of West Africa's more stable democracies, and presidential elections (in which Touré was not expected to run) were scheduled for next month. Now, the CNRDR has suspended the constitution, shut down borders and invoked a curfew.
The unsuspected mutiny appears to have begun Wednesday, when discontented soldiers shouted down the country's defence minister at a military camp outside the capital, Bamako. Gunfire was reported in the city Thursday morning.
The soldiers appear to have been angry about the government's failure to battle a growing insurgency by nomadic Tuaregs in the country's north. A spokesman for the group cited the army's lack of proper equipment as a motive.
A parting blow from Gaddafi?
Mali has put down several insurrections by Tuareg fighters in the past, but this time it's different. The tribesman have been bolstered by fellow Tuaregs returning from Libya, where many fought on behalf of the recently deposed Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. These battle-hardened fighters, armed to the teeth with weapons from Gaddafi's vanishing stockpiles, have given this current insurgency a new bite, and added another dimension to the fallout from Gaddafi's defeat.
The leaders of the coup have promised a democratic transition – whether they mean it, and how they address the revolt in the north, remains to be seen.
Further reading: Few lament the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, but many predicted serious regional repercussions, as this interesting report from the UN security council shows.