March 25, 2011 / 5:11 PM / in 8 years

Pro-Gaddafi rally draws thousands in Mali capital

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Thousands of protesters marched through the Malian capital Bamako on Friday, chanting support for Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi’s in a rally against Western air raids aimed at breaking down his military.

A Reuters reporter said a section of the crowd demonstrated peacefully outside the French embassy before moving off in the direction of the U.S. embassy, shouting “Killer Sarkozy” and “Down with Obama” in anger at French and U.S. leaders Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama.

The march was organised by Islamic groups in the African nation, which is separated from Libya geographically by Niger. There was no official estimate of the size of the protest, which brought traffic to a halt through the city centre.

International air strikes have split public and official opinion in Africa, with some offended by what they see as a breach of sovereignty while others question why the West has not done the same to end a lethal power struggle in Ivory Coast.

Western governments hope that such raids, launched on Saturday with the aim of protecting civilians, will shift the balance of power in favour of the Arab world’s most violent popular revolt.

Early on in the uprising that began in Libya a month ago, groups opposed to Gaddafi said he was using mercenaries recruited from Mali, Niger and Chad.

Tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from western Africa, are believed to have been working in Libya before the conflict, mainly in the oil industry and on building sites.

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