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Politicians arrested in Mali

April 17, 2012

Soldiers in Mali have arrested a prominent presidential candidate just hours after a former prime minister was detained. The arrests suggest the military still has a grip on power following a coup last month.

Malian junta soldiers patrol a road in Kati, outside Mali's capital Bamako
Image: Reuters

Malian presidential election candidate Soumaila Cisse was arrested by military personnel Tuesday morning outside his home in Bamako. Cisse, one of the front-runners for Mali's April 29 election, was reportedly injured during the arrest and taken to military headquarters near the capital by ambulance.

Hours earlier former Prime Minister Modibo Sidibe was also arrested in an overnight raid just days after he was released from custody.

According to a family member, "several armed men including two or three wearing masks" raided Sidibe's home and detained the former premier. It is unclear where he is being held.

It is the third time Sidibe has been detained since the military junta seized control in a coup on March 22 ousting democratically elected President Amandou Toumani Toure. The coup leaders have since handed over power to interim president Dioncounda Traore, although the arrests suggest that the junta is not yet willing to entirely relinquish control.

The European Union delegation in Mali issued a statement Tuesday expressing concern about the arrests, calling for "an urgent clarification and their immediate release."

A Malian security force meanwhile said the arrests would be explained "when the time comes."

Military officers justified the coup last month by criticizing President Toure's handling of a separatist rebellion by ethnic Tuareg in the country's north. The Tuareg rebels have since made significant gains and declared independence in the north, a territory they refer to as Azawad.

ccp/acb (AFP, AP)