Rebel troops who have taken power in Mali have said “a transitional president” would be appointed who would be drawn from either civilian or military ranks.

“We are going to set in place a transitional council, with a transitional president who is going to be either military or civilian,” military spokesman Ismael Wague said in an interview with France 24 TV channel on Thursday.

“We are in contact with civil society, opposition parties, the majority, everyone, to try to set the transition in place,” he said.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resigned and dissolved the parliament late on Tuesday, hours after the coup leaders arrested him at gunpoint, plunging a country already facing an armed movement against it as well as mass opposition protests deeper into crisis.

Meanwhile, leaders of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said they would dispatch envoys to the coup-stricken nation, as regional powers escalated efforts to block a change in government and called for Keita to be restored to office.

“We have decided to immediately send a high-level delegation in order to ensure the immediate return of constitutional order,” ECOWAS said at the end of a video summit on Thursday.

“We call for the restoration of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita as president,” it said in a closing statement, read by Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, who chairs the group.

Following the coup, the ECOWAS suspended Mali, shut borders and halted financial flows.

The bloc said the coup leaders bore the “responsibility for the safety and security” of Keita and other officials, adding that “the times of taking power by force are over in this region”.

The coup, which has rocked a country already in the grip of civil unrest, has been met with almost universal condemnation abroad.

The African Union, the European Union, the United States and the United Nations Security Council have all condemned the coup and demanded the release of all imprisoned leaders.

France, which is leading a military campaign against rebels in the Sahel, has voiced special concern.

Amnesty International joined calls for the immediate release of all those arrested during the coup and for an investigation into the reported deaths of four people during Tuesday’s events.

Foreign interference

Meanwhile, in Mali, an opposition coalition has joined the military in rejecting foreign interference.

The M5-RFP coalition of opposition groups said it was working with the mutineers. It labelled ECOWAS’s initial response to the coup an overreaction stemming from some regional leaders’ fears that it could set off unrest in their countries.

“[The leaders] are on an all-out drive to set ECOWAS against Mali,” said M5-RFP spokesman Nouhoum Togo.

The capital, Bamako, was calm for the second straight day on Thursday, Reuters news agency said, as people appeared to heed earlier calls from military spokesman Wague to return to work and go about their daily lives.

The military, led by a colonel, Assimi Goita, has vowed to stage elections within a “reasonable time” and respect “all past agreements,” including international anti-rebel missions.

The coup is Mali’s second in eight years.

The last one, in 2012, was followed by an insurrection in the north of the country which then developed into a rebellion that has spread into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

The coup has also fuelled concerns it could disrupt a military campaign against fighters linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) operating in northern and central Mali and West Africa’s wider Sahel region.

France will continue its Mali-based military operations against the fighters, its armed forces minister said on Thursday.

Landlocked Mali has struggled to regain stability since the 2012 Tuareg uprising, which was hijacked by al-Qaeda-linked fighters, and the subsequent coup in the capital plunged the country into chaos.