Oumar Samaké, top commander of the Special Anti-Terrorist Force (Forsat) was forcibly freed by agitated police officers on Friday after they stormed a prison in Bamako, Mali.
The Commander had been detained in connection to the 2020 deadly anti-government protests that led to the toppling of the then regime of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Samaké headed Forsat, an elite unit within the Malian police force. He is wanted by the authorities for his role in the brutal suppression of the protests. He was placed under arrest on the orders of a court in Bamako on Friday.
Protesting police officers from the unit blocked the streets leading to the prison and thronged to the Bamako Central Prison, where he was being held, and set him free.
The arrest of Commander Samaké was part of efforts by the transition government to fulfil demands by pro-democracy campaigners to bring to justice perpetrators of human rights violations in relation to the demonstrations.
Protesters occupied the streets of Bamako in July 2020 as the dying regime of Keita desperately struggled to survive by deploying armed security forces on the streets.
Investigations into the killings were opened in December 2020 after the clashes with security forces caused 14 deaths, however, the political opposition at the time put the death toll at 23.
Police leaders defended the action of their men on Friday, arguing that Samaké’s detention didn’t follow the right procedure.
Judicial officials however, say that the investigations against Samaké will continue. Mali is under a political transition led by a military president who is under pressure to organise elections and transfer power to a civilian administration by February 2022.
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