Soldiers overthrew Mali's military dictator early Tuesday, and the new military leader promised to bring about multiparty democracy. Violence after the coup reportedly left dozens of people dead.

Residents of Bamako, the Malian capital, cheered and set off firecrackers after hearing of the overnight ouster of Gen. Moussa Traore, who had ruled the West African nation for 23 years.However, medical officials speaking on condition of anonymity reported 59 people had been killed and about 200 injured in violence following the overthrow. Shops were being looted this morning in the capital.

The new government, in a communique read on official radio, announced the disbanding of Traore's government and his People's Democratic Union, which had been the sole legal political party.

The radio said the coup leader, Lt. Col. Amadou Toumani Toure, will head a new National Reconciliation Council that will work with pro-democracy groups.

An umbrella group, Mali's Committee of Pro-Democracy Associations, said it met with the coup leaders Tuesday and "is satisfied with this first contact."

"Give me time to make contact with the people, my people, for whom we have taken this action," Toure said in an interview on state radio. "We can say that this future action will involve the establishment of an unlimited multiparty system, social justice, and total democracy in our country."

State radio did not disclose Traore's fate, but a prominent lawyer said he was arrested by the military.

There were unconfirmed reports the president had been caught at the airport as he tried to flee the country. The military closed the landlocked nation's borders and the international airport, the radio said.

Angry crowds have been searching the city for Traore's supporters and killed at least two, according to medical officials.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Traore's education minister, Bakary Traore, and the ousted leader's brother-in-law, Mamadou Diarra, were burned to death and their bodies were at Gabriel Toure Hospital.

The overthrow followed days of violent demonstrations. Opposition leaders said Traore's forces killed 148 people and wounded hundreds in the turmoil leading up to the coup; Traore contended only 27 people died. The reports could not be reconciled.