Coup leaders in Mali have released former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita from detention, a military official said on Thursday.

A group of military officers, who call themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), has controlled the West African country since August 18, when the mutineers detained Keita at gunpoint and forced him to resign.

“President IBK is free in his movements, he’s at home,” CNSP spokesman Djibrila Maiga told AFP news agency, referring to Keita by his initials as many Malians do. He gave no further details.

A relative of Keita, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the 75-year-old former leader had returned overnight to his house in the Sebenikoro district of the capital, Bamako.

 

Keita, Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and other senior officials were seized by rebel troops who staged a mutiny at a base near Bamako on August 18.

The next day, Keita appeared on national TV to announce his resignation, saying he had had no other choice and wanted to avoid “bloodshed”.

The deposed president’s release had been a key demand of Mali’s neighbours and international organisations, including the African Union and the European Union.

West Africa’s regional bloc, ECOWAS, had sent a delegation to Bamako over the weekend to negotiate with the coup leaders.

The military leaders say they mutinied because the country was sinking into chaos and insecurity which they said was largely the fault of a poor government.

They have promised to oversee a transition to elections within a “reasonable” amount of time.

The CNSP told the ECOWAS delegation that they want to stay in power for a three-year transition period, Nigeria said on Wednesday.

In contrast, the West African bloc is seeking for a transitional government of no more than one year.

Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, heading the ECOWAS team, was given access to Keita last week, and said he seemed “very fine”.

Meanwhile, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday told RTL radio the coup would not stop French military operations against rebels active in central and northern regions, but urged a swift transition of power.

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