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Mali's Prime Minister Quits As He Is Arrested While Fleeing The Country

12/11/2012 3:07 AM ET

Mali's Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra said he is resigning hours after soldiers who staged a military coup in March arrested him as he was trying to leave the country.

Diarra was reportedly set to leave the country for France late Monday when a group of soldiers apparently sent by Captain Amadou Sanogo forcefully detained him at his home in the capital Bamako.

AFP news agency reported that Mali's national broadcaster ORTM aired Diarra's brief address to the nation in which he announced his resignation along with other members of his cabinet, without citing any reason. Reports say the 60-year-old astrophysicist acted under pressure from those who carried out a coup early this year.

Rebel military officials, led by Captain Amadou Sanogo, took control of the country on March 21 through a coup that toppled President Amadou Toumani Tour.

As part of a power transition agreement it signed with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in April, the coup leaders agreed to return power to a civilian government in exchange for lifting sanctions against them. Parliament Speaker Dioncounda Traore was sworn in as the West African country's interim President, and Diarra as ad-hoc Prime Minister.

Diarra, who has worked on several NASA space programs and served as Microsoft's chairperson for Africa, had been leading a government of national unity since August.

Since the coup, Tuareg rebels had captured large areas of the Sahara region in the country's north, and declared independence for a region they call 'Azawad.'

Diarra recently sought UN support to a planned deployment of a West African stabilization force into the occupied territory to drive out the extremists.

The military's opposition to foreign intervention might be the immediate provocation behind the coup, reports say.

The instability and insecurity resulting from the renewed clashes between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region and political instability have led over 250,000 Malians to flee to neighboring countries. Tens of thousands of Malians are estimated to be internally displaced.

This is in addition to a perilous humanitarian situation in Mali, where the UN reports a severe food security and nutrition crisis already affecting 4.6 million people.

Mali is under increased terrorist threat due to the presence of members of Al-Qeida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the country taking advantage of the anarchy.

by RTT Staff Writer

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