BAMAKO (AFP) -- Mali was in turmoil Tuesday after disgruntled army officers detained the president and the prime minister, sparking fears of a coup less than a year after the last military takeover in the impoverished west African nation.
The newest crisis to hit the vast country where takfiris control large swathes of territory sparked widespread international condemnation.
Army officers upset with a government reshuffle detained President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane and took them to the Kati military camp on the outskirts of the capital Bamako, two senior officials who declined to be named told AFP.
The pair lead an interim government that was installed under the threat of regional sanctions following a putsch in August, and the detentions on Monday raised fears of a second coup.
They were detained following a sensitive government reshuffle earlier in the day on Monday that was designed to respond to growing criticism of the interim government.
The military kept the strategic portfolios it controlled during the previous administration in the reshuffle.
But two coup leaders -- ex-defense minister Sadio Camara and ex-security minister Colonel Modibo Kone -- were replaced.
Coup leaders and army officers have wielded significant influence over the government, casting doubts on a pledge to hold elections by early next year.
The reshuffle came at a time of growing political challenges in the capital Bamako and pressure to stick to the deadline for promised reforms.
Although speculation of a coup swirled around Bamako late on Monday, the city remained relatively calm.
Briefly reached by phone Monday before the line cut, Prime Minister Ouane told AFP that soldiers “came to get him”.
A a joint statement by the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, the European Union and the United States condemned the arrests and called for their “immediate and unconditional liberty”.
Later UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted a call for calm, and urged the “unconditional release” of the leaders.
AU head Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo, who is the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on Tuesday called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of the pair as he “strongly condemned any action that aims to destabilize Mali”.