Amadou Sanogo, a former army captain who staged a military coup in Mali in 2012, went on trial today charged with the murder of several soldiers whose bodies were found in a mass grave. "I'm in fine spirits. I was waiting for this day," Sanogo said at the opening of the trial, held in a packed concert hall in Sikasso, 370 kilometres southeast of the capital, Bamako. Sanogo, who faces the death penalty, led the 2012 coup that toppled president Amadou Toumani Toure as the country grappled with a rebellion by Tuareg people that led the way to a jihadist takeover in its vast arid north. He proclaimed himself leader, blasting the former head of state for failing to restore order.
But within days, the military lost control of the cities of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu, where jihadists razed ancient shrines. He is on trial for the deaths of troops who a month later in 2012 staged a failed counter-coup. Some 20 bodies were found in December 2013 in a mass grave near Sanogo's headquarters. Mali regained control of the northern cities from the jihadists after a French-led international military intervention in January 2013, but insurgents remain active across large parts of the region.