The military behind last month's coup in Mali on Wednesday arrested two more politicians, even as a newly-appointed interim prime minister weighed the make-up of a new government.
"Unfortunately last night (Tuesday) there were new developments with the arrests of certain dignitaries... and others who were arrested, who we hope will be immediately freed," he said on a visit to Paris.
"This is a troubling situation," Sall said, adding that west African leaders were "trying to find a rapid and peaceful solution first of all internally so we can return to the normal constitutional regime and then deal with the partition of Mali."
Two opposition members were arrested late Tuesday by the army who is already holding several top officials -- including ex-prime minister Modibo Sidibe and Soumaila Cisse, a former minister who led the West African Economic and Monetary Union until last November.
Rights body Amnesty International condemned the arrests at a time when the country is supposed to be seeking a return to democracy.
"The arrests clearly show that despite the re-establishment of a civilian authority, members of the military continue to disregard the rule of law", said Gaëtan Mootoo, West Africa researcher currently in Mali with an Amnesty International delegation.
"Some of these men have been arrested in the middle of the night in their homes and all are being held without charge. The Malian authorities must release them or charge them with a recognizable criminal offence."
As the junta leaders carried out their show of force, there was more bad news from the country's desert north, where the political chaos has allowed rebel forces to make huge gains in recent weeks.
The United Nations humanitarian office said some 268,000 people had now fled northern Mali, which was seized by Tuareg rebels and Islamists in the days following the March 22 putsch.
The northern crisis is at the top of the agenda for an interim government under Dioncounda Traore who was named transition leader.
Traore on Tuesday appointed a noted astrophysicist as his prime minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra -- who worked on several space exploration missions for NASA -- and who is expected to announce the members of his government in coming days.
However the arrests have called into question the junta's commitment to ceding power.
The FDR group of political parties and civil society groups accused the junta of seeking to instil "a climate of terror" with the arrests.
In a statement released late Tuesday, Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, an adviser to the junta head, confirmed that "civil and military figures" had been picked up on the basis of "serious information."
Investigations into the activities of those seized were underway and legal action may be taken against them, he added.
A Malian security source said the arrests would be explained "when the time comes."
Both Sidibe and Cisse were leading candidates in a presidential election set for April 29 that was derailed by the coup.
"The arrest (of Cisse) clearly shows the junta's desire to not cede power to civilians," the former minister's office said in a statement sent to AFP in Dakar.
The low-ranking army officers who staged the putsch justified their action by denouncing the government's ineffective resistance to a Tuareg rebellion, which was rekindled in January.
The main Tuareg rebel group Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) then declared an independent state, drawing international condemnation. Islamist groups meanwhile seized control of some areas, including Timbuktu.
Initial contacts have been made with some of the groups since Traore's inauguration, and he has vowed "total and implacable war" if talks fail.
A member of MNLA's political branch said Monday that a first official meeting between the rebels and Malian authorities had gone well and mooted the possibility of a federation.
Under the constitution, an interim presidency should last only 40 days, but the ECOWAS-brokered deal recognised that it could take longer to organise new elections and return Mali to constitutional rule.
Source: AFP Global Edition