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Mali President Keita names loyalist cabinet ahead of 2018 elections

FILE PHOTO: Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita listens during the Escaping From Poverty event in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich/File Photo

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced a new government on Tuesday stocked with loyalists seen as helping him prepare for a re-election bid next year.

The government, announced in a presidential decree, includes 10 new ministers and 25 holdovers from the previous cabinet.

Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, a former defense minister and close Keita ally, was handed the crucial post of minister of territorial administration, charged with organizing presidential and parliamentary elections late next year.

The shakeup follows Keita’s nomination at the weekend of Adboulaye Idrissa Maiga, another close ally and the defense minister in the previous government, as prime minister.

Mali’s government is struggling to contain militancy in its north, where rival tribal militias frequently clash and Islamist groups launch attacks on civilians, Malian soldiers, U.N. peacekeepers and French forces there.

Islamist fighters, some linked to al Qaeda, seized northern Mali in 2012 before being driven out of major cities and towns by a French-led military intervention a year later.

Tiena Coulibaly, ambassador to the United States, was named the new defense minister.

Reporting by Adama Diarra; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Andrew Roche

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