Mali's Leader Escapes Injury After Attackers With Gun, Knife Approach at Mosque

Mali's transitional President Col. Assimi Goita was attacked by a man with a knife at the Grand Central Mosque during celebrations for the Muslim holiday of sacrifice, Eid al-Adha.

Witnesses said the attempted stabbing happened after holiday prayers and sermon as the imam went to slaughter a sheep. Two men, one with a knife and another with a gun, participated in the attack, but Goita was not hurt.

His security team quickly whisked him away, but another person was injured, according to witnesses.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, continue below.

Security personnel escort an alleged attacker (C) from The Grand Fayçal Mosque in Bamako on July 20, 2021, after two assailants attempted to stab Mali's interim transitional President Colonel Assimi Goita during Eid al-Adha prayers at the mosque in the Malian capital. - Mali's interim president Colonel Assimi Goita was "safe and sound", his office said, after an assassination attempt by two men, one wielding a knife, during prayers at a mosque in Bamako. An AFP journalist who witnessed the attack said the assailants lunged at Goita, who was quickly whisked away by security. EMMANUEL DAOU/AFP/Getty Images

Col. Assimi Goita grabbed power in August 2020 by overthrowing Mali's democratically elected president. He eventually agreed to a transitional government led by a civilian president and prime minister but on May 24 he ousted those civilian leaders after they announced a Cabinet reshuffle that sidelined two junta supporters without consulting him.

Goita was then sworn in as president of the transitional government in June. He has pledged to keep the country on track to return to civilian rule with an election in February 2022.

Mali has been unsettled since 2012 when mutinous soldiers overthrew the president of a decade. The power vacuum led to an Islamic insurgency that took control of the country's northern cities, including Timbuktu and Gao. A French-led campaign ousted the jihadis from the northern cities in 2013.

A peace agreement was signed in 2015 by three parties — the government, a coalition of groups that seek autonomy in northern Mali, and a pro-government militia.

However, the insurgents quickly regrouped in the desert areas and began launching frequent attacks on the Malian army and its allies. The extremists, affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State militant group, have moved from the arid north to more populous central Mali since 2015 where their presence has stoked animosity and violence between ethnic groups.