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Mali President, PM Released From Military Custody


FILE - Retired Col. Maj. Bah N'Daw, right, is sworn into the office of transitional president, and Col. Assimi Goita, left, is sworn into the office of transitional vice president, at a ceremony in the capital Bamako, Mali, Sept. 25, 2020.

Officials in Mali say the country's interim president and prime minister have been released, one day after they resigned while in military custody.

The military arrested interim president Bah N'daw and his prime minister, Moctar Ouane, on Monday in the capital, Bamako, triggering a fresh political crisis in the troubled West African country.

Vice President Colonel Assimi Goita has effectively taken power in what amounts to Mali's second coup in nine months.

Commandant Baba Cisse, special adviser to the vice president, addresses to the press in Bamako, May 26, 2021.
Commandant Baba Cisse, special adviser to the vice president, addresses to the press in Bamako, May 26, 2021.

Reuters news agency quoted a top aide to Goita, Baba Cisse, as saying the release of N'daw and Ouane was scheduled and that officials "have nothing against them."

Colonel Goita, who also led the coup that toppled then-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita last October, said Tuesday he removed N'Daw and Ouane because they neglected to advise him about a cabinet reshuffle that left out two members of the military, a move he said violated the agreement that created Mali's civilian transitional government.

Goita said the country was still on track to hold presidential and legislative elections set for next February.

The detentions of N'Daw and Ouane sparked outrage among the international community.

A joint statement issued Tuesday by ECOWAS, the United Nations, the African Union and other international bodies called for their immediate release, while French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the move as a "coup d'etat."

The U.S. State Department voiced support Wednesday for the ECOWAS statement and said it is "suspending all security assistance that benefits the Malian security and defense forces."

Mali has been in turmoil since then-President Amadou Toumani Touré was toppled in a military coup in 2012 that led ethnic Tuareg rebels to seize control of several northern towns, which then were taken over by Islamist insurgents. France deployed forces to repel the insurgents the following year, but the rebels have continued to operate in rural areas.

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