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France Detains Malian Ex-official

FILE - Police officers on motorcycles patrol on deserted streets in Biarritz, France, Aug. 23, 2019.

A former top Malian official was briefly held in Paris after the ruling junta in Bamako issued an international arrest warrant for him, according to French officials.

Moustapha Ben Barka, previously a key aide to ousted president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was detained on Monday at Charles de Gaulle airport, French officials said.

He was held overnight before being released on Tuesday on the instructions of French judicial officials, officials said, without giving further details.

A judicial source confirmed to AFP "the release of the person concerned after the decision to not pursue the extradition procedure which had been initiated following a request by the Malian authorities."

Ben Barka, vice president of the West African Development Bank (BOAD), was in transit in Paris while on a business trip to South Korea, a source close to the bank said.

He is among half a dozen former officials who have been indicted by the junta and most of whom are abroad.

Barka was appointed to a range of senior jobs from 2013, firstly as minister and then as effectively chief of staff to the presidency from 2017.

Keita was forced out in August 2020 by colonels angered at his failure to stem a bloody jihadist insurgency.

Mali says it has filed arrest warrants for six former Keita officials.

Five are being sought in connection with allegedly corrupt purchases of military equipment or the acquisition of a presidential plane.

An arrest warrant has also been filed for Keita's son, Karim Keita, a former MP who headed the National Assembly's defence commission.

He is being sought in connection with the disappearance of a journalist in 2016.

Last year, authorities detained former premier Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga over the allegedly fraudulent purchase of a presidential plane in 2014.

Maiga died in March while in custody, despite warnings from his family that his health was deteriorating.