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Mali ex-defense minister charged in soldier deaths

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BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Authorities have charged Mali's former defense minister and two other top ex-officials in connection with the slayings of 21 soldiers who had opposed a coup leader's rise to power, government officials said Friday.

The former No. 2 behind Mali's March 2012 coup also was indicted as was the former head of the Malian intelligence service.

Gen. Yamoussa Camara, the ex-defense minister, has been accused of being complicit in the murders of the soldiers, which took place not long after the 2012 coup, said spokesman Mahamane Baby.

Gen. Sidi Alassane Toure and Capt. Amadou Konare also face the same charges, according to a Justice Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to talk to journalists.

The soldiers are believed to have been killed in April 2012, when forces loyal to the ousted president attempted to grab back power from coup leader Amadou Haya Sanogo. In December, a mass grave containing 21 skulls was discovered near the military barracks that had served as Sanogo's headquarters.

Sanogo already has been charged with complicity in the kidnapping and killing of his fellow soldiers.

After toppling Mali's democratically elected president, Sanogo was opposed by the elite paratroopers known as the Red Berets who had made up the president's guard. When the Red Berets attempted to lead a countercoup on April 30, 2012, Sanogo responded with blunt force, organizing what human rights groups describe as a purge of the military.

In the early morning hours of May 2, 2012, at least 20 soldiers who had taken part in the countercoup disappeared, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. One witness said he saw them with their hands bound and their eyes covered. The mother of one of the missing men later told Human Rights Watch that her son made one last phone call, saying the soldiers detaining him were arguing about whether to kill him.

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