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Mali Soldiers Arrest Key Government Figures

Fighters from the Ansar Dine group, flying the group's black flag, instruct local residents in how to follow Shariah, as they stop in a market area of Timbuktu, Mali, April 14, 2012.
Fighters from the Ansar Dine group, flying the group's black flag, instruct local residents in how to follow Shariah, as they stop in a market area of Timbuktu, Mali, April 14, 2012.

Mali 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 said that former prime minister Soumaila Cisse is among those seized.  Cisse was a frontrunner 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.

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

State media announced Tuesday that Cheick Modibo Diarra has been appointed interim prime minister.  Diarra, a U.S.-educated mechanical and space engineer, was running for president in the April 29 poll.

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

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.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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