Mali junta arrests critical opposition politician: family

AFP , Saturday 24 Mar 2012

Mali junta release Kassoum Tapo, leading opposition figure, after few hours of detention, following his announcement that his party is against the military coup

A lawyer and member of a leading Malian opposition party was briefly arrested Saturday after criticising a coup by mutinous soldiers who have claimed control of the country, his family said.

"Armed soldiers came to the house and arrested my uncle in front of me. They had guns and threatened us. My uncle went with them," said a relative of Kassoum Tapo, a member of the Democratic Alliance of Mali which has 54 of the 147 seats in parliament.

Tapo had spoken on behalf of his party against the coup on French international radio RFI on Friday.

"The soldiers also took several of my uncle's cars. They demanded the keys to the cars and left with them," the relative said.

Tapo was released shortly after his detention, and told AFP coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo had apologised for his arrest.

Three other Malian politicians, requesting anonymity, said they had gone underground, fearing they were being sought by armed men.

"I am in hiding. They are looking for me. We are not going to let the soldiers arrest everyone and make off with our country," one of them told AFP.

Several political parties planned to create a "refusal front" against the coup leaders.

The group of low-ranking officers were trying to assert their power two days after they seized government buildings and shot their way to the presidency before taking to state television to announce the overthrow of an "incompetent" regime.

The soldiers say their action was sparked by government's inability to deal with a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north, which has overwhelmed the military who claim they are ill-equipped to fight the desert nomads.

The whereabouts of President Amadou Toumani Toure remain unknown, although his entourage and the coup leaders have said he is safe. A member of his entourage told AFP he was under the protection of his elite paratrooper guards.

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