Military officers in Mali arrested the president, premier and defense minister of the interim cabinet on Monday, deepening political havoc just months after a military coup ousted the former president, several sources told Reuters.
The diplomatic and government sources reported that President Bah Ndaw, Prime Minister Moctar Ouane and defense minister Souleymane Doucoure were all taken to a military base in Kati outside the capital Bamako, hours after 2 members of the military lost their positions in a cabinet reshuffle.
Their arrest comes after the military ouster in August of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The development could exacerbate instability in the West African country where violent Islamist groups affiliated with the Islamic State and al Qaeda militant groups control swathes of the desert north.
Military infighting and political instability have complicated efforts by neighboring countries and western powers to prop up to the impoverished nation, contributing to regional insecurity.
The United Nations’ mission in Mali called for the group’s “immediate and unconditional” release and noted that those who hold the leaders would have to answer for their actions.
In a joint statement, ECOWAS, the U.N., African Union, European Union and multiple European countries said a delegation from the senior regional decision-making body ECOWAS is set to visit Bamako on Tuesday to help resolve the “attempted coup”.
“The international community rejects in advance any act imposed by coercion, including forced resignations,” the group said.
The U.S. State Department called in a statement for the “unconditional release of those currently being held”.
Ndaw and Ouane had been tasked with overseeing an 18-month transition back to civilian rule after the August takeover, but they appear to have moved against the military’s control over a number of major positions.