BAMAKO  - Mali’s interim president Dioncounda Traore returned to Bamako Friday amid tight security following a two-month stay in Paris for medical treatment after being savagely beaten in his office. Armed, masked men kept watch on roofs as Traore landed at 5:20 pm (1720 GMT) in a country in a worse state of crisis than when he left it, greeted by embattled Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra. Ex-junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo, who led a March 22 coup, was also present. Traore was attacked by a mob protesting his appointment on May 21, the eve of the official start of a transition period for a return to democratic rule in the troubled west African country after a March 22 coup. Hardline Islamists have strengthened their hold on the vast desert north of the country, which they seized after the coup. The interim government which took over from the junta has proved powerless to deal with the occupation. Diarra is trying to cobble together a wider unity government on the orders of mediators from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc to deal with the mounting crisis. ECOWAS wants to send a 3,000-strong military force to Mali, but is waiting for United Nations approval and a formal request from Bamako. Mali has until July 31 to form the unity government, a process which faces further hurdles after key political parties called for Diarra to step down, accusing him of “incompetence and amateurishness”.