BAMAKO (Reuters) - International organizations condemned a wave of arrests by Mali’s military rulers extended into a third day on Wednesday despite an agreement by the junta to restore constitutional order.
The West African state has been in crisis since a March 22 coup derailed a planned April election and brought about a collapse of internal front lines as Tuareg separatists and Islamist rebels advanced and seized vast northern desert zones.
Some 22 people, including many figures allied with ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure’s administration, have been detained by soldiers since Monday, including at least three on Wednesday, even after the junta agreed to hand power to a civilian transitional president.
The United Nations said on Wednesday that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was concerned by the “renewed wave of arrests” and urged the junta to “refrain from any further actions that might undermine the effective restoration of constitutional rule”.
The African Union condemned the arrests as well, calling them detrimental to the process of restoring order.
Those arrested include former Prime Minister Modibo Sidibe, ex-Defense Minister Sadio Gassama, Toure’s ex-chief of staff General Amadou Cissoko, and Bani Kante, a businessman who advised Toure on Libya’s investments in the country.
Colonel Diamou Keita, head of the gendarmerie, said 11 civilians and 11 soldiers had been arrested and that arms stocks had been found in some houses of those taken into custody. He did not give further details.
The junta’s only previous official statement on the arrests came late on Tuesday when it said security forces with “serious” evidence raided a number of private residences and detained an unspecified number of civilian and military officials.
The cases against these individuals would be handed onto the relevant authorities, it said, without specifying any charges.
Interim President Dioncounda Traore told journalists on Tuesday he had told the military that he wanted an end to the arrests and those held to be freed.
Traore said junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo had promised to resolve the issue by the end of Tuesday.
The leaders of the coup have formally handed power to Traore, but hold sway in the capital Bamako while talks continue to form a government before elections can be held.
Visiting Mali on Wednesday, Adama Bictogo, the Ivorian minister for African integration and an ECOWAS mediator, said the West African regional bloc had also called for those arrested to be freed or be passed to the relevant authorities. “The arrests must not be a blockage to the process,” he said.
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Additional reporting by David Lewis and Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Mark Heinrich