Mali soldiers arrest PM Diarra attempting to leave the country

Mali's Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra. (AFP)

Mali's Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra. (AFP)

A spokesperson for Mali's military says soldiers have arrested Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra as he tried to leave the country for France.

"He wanted to leave the country having incited trouble," Bakary Mariko, a spokesperson for the group of soldiers who seized power in a March coup, said late on Monday. The group remains powerful despite officially handing power back to civilians earlier this year.

Diarra's arrest was confirmed by a diplomat in Mali.

The move will complicate efforts to stabilise the West African nation, where soldiers and politicians remain divided since the coup and where the north of the country is occupied by al-Qaeda-linked fighters.

Residents in Bamako said the town was quiet in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Mariko gave no further details on the arrest but tensions had been growing between him and Diarra, a former Nasa scientist and Microsoft chief for Africa – who has been interim prime minister since April.

West African leaders and Western nations have warned that Mali's north has become a safe haven for terrorism and organised crime, but they have struggled to draw up plans to help the country due to the deep divisions in the capital. – Reuters

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