President Keita and PM Boubou Cisse, left, arrested by Mali mutineers

By Agency Reporter

A military spokesman for Mali mutineers confirmed on Tuesday that President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse have been arrested.

“The president and his prime minister have been arrested,” army officer Sidi Gakou said by phone.

“They are being taken to Kati military camp.”

The African Union Commission condemned the arrests and called for the immediate release of both leaders.

Earlier on Tuesday, the government had released a statement calling for calm, admitting that soldiers might have legitimate frustrations and saying they were prepared to engage in a dialogue.

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Mali has been struggling to maintain stability since tens of thousands of opposition supporters accused Keita of gross intimidation and vote-buying during a parliamentary election in April, which gave his administration a firm majority.

Soldiers started to mutiny early Tuesday in the garrison town of Kati, 15 kilometres north-west of Bamako. Gunfire was heard in the capital.

Earlier in the day, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said it was “greatly concerned” about a mutiny taking place.

Soldiers should return to barracks, refrain from “unconstitutional action” and instead try to resolve political differences through dialogue, ECOWAS said in a statement.

France, a former colonial power in Mali, also condemned the mutiny.

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“France has learned with concern of the mutiny that has started today in Kati, Mali. It condemns this serious event in the strongest terms,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Talks between the government and the opposition, which is led by popular cleric Mahmoud Dicko, a former ally of Keita, have so far failed.