Former Malian prime minister Modibo Sidibe was arrested overnight along with several other high-ranking figures, both civilian and military, relatives and a security source said on Tuesday.
Those arrested were taken to the headquarters of the junta that seized power last month before handing it over to an interim president, Dioncounda Traore, who took office on Thursday, the sources said.
“Modibo Sidibe was arrested at his home by several armed men including two or three wearing masks,” a family member told AFP. Sidibe was prime minister from 2007 to 2011.
Family sources said former defence minister Sadio Gassama and Hamidou Sissoko, personal chief of staff to ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure, were also picked up at their homes and taken to the military camp and junta headquarters in Kati, some 15km from the capital Bamako.
A Malian security source confirmed the arrests and said they would be explained “when the time comes”.
Soumaila Cisse, a former Cabinet minister, was reported to have escaped arrest because he was not at home when armed men ransacked his house.
The wave of arrests came as a transitional prime minister was to be named Tuesday. His priority will be to negotiate with Tuareg and Islamist rebels who took advantage of the March 22 coup to overrun much of the north of the country.
The low-ranking army officers who staged the coup justified their action by denouncing the government’s ineffective resistance to the Tuareg rebellion, which was rekindled in January.
The coup prompted the rebels, joined by Islamists, to capture an area roughly the size of France, including the ancient town of Timbuktu.
The main Tuareg rebel group Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) then declared an independent state, drawing international condemnation. — AFP