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Ousted Mali president returns to country

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Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is seen on arrival for the ECOWAS meeting in Abuja, Nigeria December 16, 2017. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Mali’s ex-president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita returned to the Sahel state Wednesday, an official said, after leaving to seek medical treatment following his ouster in an August coup.

The 75-year-old former leader landed in the capital Bamako in the evening, an airport official said, his first time back in Mali since he departed for the United Arab Emirates on September 5.

Young army officers launched a coup against Keita on August 18, after mass protests against his leadership triggered by frustrations over a range of issues, including perceived corruption and Mali’s longrunning jihadist insurgency.

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The military detained Keita for over two weeks but he was released after he suffered a minor stroke, according to his doctors.

AFP journalists on Wednesday witnessed a convoy enter Keita’s residence in Bamako shortly after his flight landed.

A few dozen supporters welcomed him home with chants of “long live IBK” — using the acronym by which Keita is more commonly known.

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Under intense international pressure, Mali’s junta has handed over power to an interim government which is meant to rule the conflict-ridden country for 18 months, before staging elections.

Mali has struggled to contain a jihadist insurgency which first emerged in 2012, and has since spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have died in the conflict to date, and hundreds of thousands of people have had to flee their homes.

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