Mali's president and PM arrested by mutinous soldiers

FILE - In this Thursday Sept. 21, 2006, file photo, Mali's Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Moctar Ouane addresses the 61st session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters. Mutinous soldiers arrested Mali's transitional President Bah NDaw and Prime Minister Ouane, Monday, May 24, 2021, hours after a government reshuffle left out two members of the junta that seized power in a coup nine months earlier in the West African nation, the African Union said late in the day.  (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
FILE - In this Thursday Sept. 21, 2006, file photo, Mali's Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Moctar Ouane addresses the 61st session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters. Mutinous soldiers arrested Mali's transitional President Bah NDaw and Prime Minister Ouane, Monday, May 24, 2021, hours after a government reshuffle left out two members of the junta that seized power in a coup nine months earlier in the West African nation, the African Union said late in the day. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BAMAKO – Mutinous soldiers arrested Mali's transitional president and prime minister Monday hours after a government reshuffle left out two members of the junta that had seized power in a coup nine months earlier, the African Union and United Nations said.

A joint statement issued along with the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS and other members of the international community called for the immediate release of President Bah N’Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, who were taken to the Kati military headquarters.

Those who signed on to the joint statement called for Mali's political transition “to resume its course and conclude within the established timeframe."

“The international community rejects in advance any act of coercion, including forced resignations,” the statement said. “They emphasize that the ill-considered action taken today carries the risk of weakening the mobilization of the international community in support of Mali.”

The developments raised new alarm about whether the transitional government would be able to move ahead freely with plans to organize new democratic elections as promised by next February in Mali, where the U.N. is spending $1.2 billion a year on a peacekeeping mission.

The two leaders were sworn in last September after the ruling military junta agreed to hand over power to a civilian transitional government under growing international pressure.

The junta had grabbed power a month earlier after mutinous soldiers encircled the home of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and fired shots into the air. He later resigned on national television under duress, saying he did not want blood to be shed in order for him to stay in office.

The soldiers then went on state television hours later calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People and promising a swift return to civilian rule. However, Monday's developments appeared to throw that promise into question.