BAMAKO — Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, once a US-trained English instructor to his fellow Malian officers, has emerged as the leader of a military junta which ousted a democratic regime.
The middle-aged officer comes from Segou, Mali's third-largest city on the Niger River and 240 kilometres (150 miles) from the capital Bamako.
His army career saw him make his way through a military academy in Kati outside Bamako, whose barracks are now the junta headquarters after a mutiny there led to a full-blown coup on Thursday.
Analysts say the coup was hastily planned, and Sanogo has spent much of his time since trying to restore order while the country's political class and the world roundly condemn the putsch.
Paul Melly, a researcher at the London-based Chatham House, said the coup "appears have been a spontaneous boiling over of soldiers' anger" at the government's handling of a Tuareg insurrection in the north.
"There's no sign of a coherent plan and the putschists seem to be feeling their way hour by hour."
Sanogo has made several television appearances in a bid to reassure the nation, speaking in a raspy, hoarse voice and insisting he plans to hand over power to a civilian government once several problems are dealt with.
The problem at the moment was "a lack of equipment, a lack of training and our comrades are dying all the time," Sanogo told the BBC in an interview.
"So once this has been fixed, I'll be able to say 'OK, go for election' in a short period of time. I promise."
The captain, with a green beret perched on his shaved head and slightly pockmarked cheeks, has a shining United States Marine Corps pin attached to his uniform.
This is a reminder of several trips made to the US, where he received training in Georgia and Quantico, Virginia, he told journalists in an interview this week.
American media cite the State Department as saying he attended an English-language instructor course in Texas from August 2004 to February 2005 and again in 2007.
He also completed intelligence training in Arizona in 2008, and infantry officer training in Georgia for five months in 2010.
Sanogo told journalists in Bamako he has attended several international military summits, including one on counter-terrorism in Morocco.
Washington, which along with Paris has injected huge support into training Mali's soldiers to combat terrorism and drug trafficking in the Sahara, was among the first to condemn the coup and demand a return to constitutional order.
A day after the coup, rumours swirled in Bamako and on social networking sites that Sanogo had been killed and there had been a counter-attack by loyalist troops.
He went on television, saying: "I am Captain Sanogo and I am in good health, all is well."
The captain was an instructor at the Koulikoro military school near Bamako where five students died in October last year during hazing activities.
An officer at the school told AFP that Sanogo "was not there on the day it happened, but as all staff were punished, Sanogo was too."
Three of the soldiers facing charges over the hazing incident now form part of his entourage, said an African diplomat.
Another Malian soldier told AFP he believed the soldier's justification of the coup, that they were ill-equipped to face the Tuareg rebels was "phoney ... they want to settle scores. He will seek the arrest of anyone who gets in his way. It has already started."
People who have met with Sanogo since the coup describe him as an "attentive" listener. However, one diplomat said he appears not to take decisions unilaterally, prefering to consult with other members of the junta.
One of his colleagues says he once heard Sanogo say that if he was ever in politics he would be "a leftist".
Friends say he is a ladies man with several children who likes a good party, football and sports.
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