Mali Soldiers Arrest Key Government Figures

Posted April 17th, 2012 at 9:50 am (UTC-5)
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Officials in Mali say soldiers have arrested at least seven prominent political figures, raising questions about a promise by coup leaders to return power to civilians.

Witnesses and political aides say the arrests happened in the capital Bamako late Monday and early Tuesday.

A source close to those arrested tells VOA that former prime minister Soumaila Cisse is among those seized. Cisse was a front-runner in a presidential poll that had been set for April 29 before the junta took power.

Others arrested include former prime minister Modibo Sidibe, former interior minister Kone Kafougouna and former defense minister Sadio Gassama, according to the source.

There was no word from junta leaders on the reason for the arrests.

On Sunday, Captain Amadou Sanogo — the leader of last month's coup — declared on state television that the military would be stepping up patrols in Bamako to, in his words, “protect citizens and their belongings.”

Under intense international pressure, coup leaders agreed earlier this month to restore civilian rule and allow a transitional government to organize new elections.

On Thursday parliament speaker Dioncounda Traore was sworn in as the interim president, replacing his predecessor Amadou Touman Toure, who resigned last week.

Mr. Toure was ousted by on March 22 by renegade soldiers who objected to his handling of a Tuareg rebellion in the north.

Since then the rebels have seized three major towns along with an Islamist group, Ansar Dine. The Tuaregs declared the north an independent state but their declaration was rejected by neighboring countries and the African Union.