Top jihadist suspect arrested in southern Mali

A key Islamist suspect believed to head Mali’s southern jihadist fighters was detention in the capital Bamako on Thursday following his capture by special forces, security sources told AFP.
“Souleymane Keita, the top jihadist leader in the south of the country, was arrested a few days ago on the Mauritanian border, and transferred to Bamako on Wednesday,” a security source said.
Keita’s arrest comes as west African nations scramble to tighten security following a string of attacks against hotels and restaurants popular with foreigners that have highlighted the growing reach of jihadist groups in the region.
Keita is one of two suspected leaders of extremists operating in southern and central Mali that have been linked to the Ansar Dine group, which was one of three Islamist factions that conquered vast swathes of the country’s north in 2012 before being repulsed by French troops.
A second security source told AFP that Keita’s arrest near the town of Sokolo followed the capture of one of his allies a few months ago in the centre of the country.
“He was about to head to Timbuktu, probably to meet up with his mentor Iyad Ag Ghaly in the Kidal region” in north-east Mali, the source said, referring to the Tuareg leader of Ansar Dine.
Malian intelligence officials say Keita and Ag Ghaly fought side by side in 2012 in northern Mali.

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