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Originally published Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 10:51 AM

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Mali mayor accused of drug trafficking arrested

Authorities have arrested a mayor in northeastern Mali on drug trafficking charges three years after a plane full of cocaine landed near his town, officials said Thursday.

Associated Press

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BAMAKO, Mali —

Authorities have arrested a mayor in northeastern Mali on drug trafficking charges three years after a plane full of cocaine landed near his town, officials said Thursday.

Baba Ould Cheick was taken into custody Wednesday morning, according to Alassane S. Toure, who headed the operation.

"We asked the headquarters in Gao to take all necessary measures to transfer him to Bamako as quickly as possible before locals could intervene," Toure told The Associated Press.

Toure didn't provide details about the allegations against Cheick other than to say that there had been a warrant out for his arrest.

Cheick is the mayor of Tarkint, a small village located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of the town of Gao.

In November 2009, a Boeing 727-200 that was believed to be coming from Venezuela landed near Tarkint carrying at least five tons of cocaine aboard.

Officials have identified the Gao region in northeastern Mali as a drug trafficking hub in West Africa.

Many of the trafficking operations, though, have been dislodged by the French-led military intervention to oust radical Islamic fighters who controlled the town of Gao until January.

In 2008, Malian officials seized 750 kilograms (1,650 pounds) of ingredients used to make cocaine, following a nine-hour gunbattle with the suspected drug traffickers.

That operation occurred in the town of Achiboro, located 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) northeast of Mali's capital, Bamako.

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