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Mali ex-PM Modibo Keita Dies Aged 78 

FILE - Mali's Prime Minister Modibo Keita meets with the prime minister of France in Bamako, Feb. 18, 2016.

Mali's former prime minister Modibo Keita has died at the age of 78, interim premier Moctar Ouane said Saturday, the latest in a string of deaths of high-profile political figures in the West African country.

Ouane did not specify the cause or time of death for Keita, who served as prime minister from 2015 to 2017.

On Twitter, Ouane paid tribute to "the memory of a great servant of the state and of a man steeped in our ancestral values of integrity, honor and dignity".

The announcement came just a day after the funeral of veteran opposition leader Soumaila Cisse, who died of coronavirus in late December.

Former president Amadou Toumani Toure died in November, while ex-dictator Moussa Traore passed in September.

Modibo Keita was one of six prime ministers to serve under President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was ousted in a coup in August.

From 2014 until his appointment as prime minister, Modibo Keita had been the president's representative for peace talks between the government and Tuareg rebel groups waging an insurgency in the country's conflict-ravaged north.

Despite a 2015 peace deal, the region has remained in crisis, a jihadist campaign spreading to the center of the country and over the borders with Burkina Faso and Niger.

The violence has killed thousands since 2012.

Initially a teacher, Modibo Keita went on to hold numerous posts, including minister and ambassador.