First Mali coup leader dies

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Former Mali military leader Moussa Traore, who overthrew his predecessor in a 1968 coup, died at age 83, a spokesman for the country’s military junta said.

Traore ousted Modibo Keita, Mali’s first democratically elected president since the West African nation’s independence from France in 1960 and ruled until 1991 when he was ousted in a military takeover.

“I can confirm he died today,” said junta spokesman Captain Djibrilla Maiga.

Traore’s 23-year rule was marked by widespread rights abuses. In 1993, a Mali court found him guilty of the murder of 106 people who participated in demonstrations ahead of his downfall.

He was sentenced to death but later commuted and he was pardoned in 2002.

Traore was forced out after he was arrested by soldiers following weeks of protests in March 1991.

Mali struggled for stability since independence and the last decade was marked by militant violence after a Tuareg rebellion in 2012 was hijacked by al Qaeda-linked jihadists who occupied most of the north of the country.

Former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita came to power in 2013 promising an end to the chaos. His rule ended in a coup on August 18, following months of popular protests – marking the country’s second military coup in eight years.