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Mali arrests ex-defense minister over paratroopers' deaths

Authorities in Mali arrested former defense minister General Yamoussa Camara on Thursday in a fresh sign of the government's attempts to regain control of the army after a coup in 2012 that plunged the country into chaos.

Camara was charged with attempted murder over the deaths of 21 paratroopers who disappeared two years ago and whose bodies were discovered last December in a mass grave in Diago in southwestern Mali, close to the capital Bamako.

"He tried to cover up the deaths of some of the 21 missing paratroopers by writing their names on a list of military reinforcements sent to the north to make it seem as though they had died there during the war," said a senior military official.

"A letter he signed has been discovered and he has been arrested," said the official on condition of anonymity. State television later said he had been charged with attempted murder.

Mali's government is under pressure to restore the state's authority over the army and to root out northern separatists and Islamist rebels who seized control after the coup but were driven out by a French-led intervention in January 2013.

Authorities arrested Mali's former junta chief General Amadou Sanago in November and charged him over the same abduction of the missing soldiers.

Sanago named Camara defence minister after the coup, a post he held until last year when he became a leading military adviser in the presidency.

[Source: Reuters, Bamako, 13Feb14]

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