Bamako (Mali): The junior officer who overthrew Mali's democratically elected leader earlier this month and dissolved the nation's constitution made a public U-turn on Sunday, declaring amid enormous international pressure that he was reinstating the 1992 constitution and planning to hold elections.

Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo added that he would organize a national convention to agree on a transitional governmentwhich will organize free and fair elections. What he did not make clear is when the convention would be held, or when elections would take place, or if he would remain president during the transitional period.

Sanogo's announcement came as Tuareg rebels penetrated and seized control of the ancient northern city of Timbuktu, a move that deepens the crisis in the West African nation. Tuareg rebels took advantage of the chaos surrounding last week's coup in the faraway capital to take the town of Kidal, located 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) from Bamako on Friday.

They seized the biggest northern city of Gao, located around 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) away on Saturday — cities that never fell in previous rebellions. A resident in
Timbuktu said that the rebels entered the town after a heavy firefight, and were going house to house asking people to remain calm.

Mali, once a model democracy, was plunged into crisis on March 21 when a mutiny erupted at the Kati military camp located around 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the presidential palace.

The 30-something Sanogo was one of the few officers who didn't flee the camp when the rank-and-file soldiers began rioting, and he quickly became their leader as they broke into the camp's armory, grabbed automatic weapons and headed for the seat of government.

(Agencies)