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Mali vice president confirms takeover after president arrested

A Malian woman holds a poster with the image of Colonel Assimi Goita the president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) as she attends a mass gathering of supporters of the CNSP at Independence Square in Bamako, Mali, 8 September 2020. Mali President Ibrahim Boubakar Keita resigned on 19 August 2020 after a coup by the military on 18 August 2020 with the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) steering the process towards a transitional government. (Photo: EPA-EFE/H.DIAKITE)

BAMAKO, May 25 (Reuters) - Mali's interim vice president, Colonel Assimi Goita, said on Tuesday that he had seized power after the transitional president and prime minister failed to consult him about the formation of a new government.

By Paul Lorgerie and Tiemoko Diallo

He said elections would be held next year as planned.

President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were arrested and taken to a military base outside the capital on Monday evening, prompting swift condemnation from international powers, some of which called it an “attempted coup”.

The two men were in charge of a transitional government created after a military coup in August that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. They were tasked with overseeing a return to democratic elections next year.

Goita, who led the August coup, orchestrated the detentions after two fellow coup leaders were dropped from their government posts in a cabinet reshuffle on Monday.

In a statement read by an aide on national television, Goita said elections next year to restore an elected government would go ahead as planned.

“The vice president of the transition saw himself obligated to act to preserve the transitional charter and defend the republic,” the statement said.

The United Nations, European Union and regional countries have all condemned the military’s actions and demanded the immediate release of the detained leaders.

They fear the situation could exacerbate instability in the West African country, where Islamist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State control large areas of the north and centre and stage frequent attacks on the army and civilians.

A delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was expected to visit Mali on Tuesday.

(Reporting by David Lewis, Paul Lorgerie, and Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Edward McAllister and Giles Elgood)

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