BAMAKO, Mali — Soldiers arrested Mali's prime minister and forced him to resign before dawn on Tuesday, showing that the military remains the real power in this troubled West African nation despite handing back authority to civilians after a coup in March.
The prime minister's ouster comes as the United Nations considers backing a military intervention in Mali, a once-stable country now in constant turmoil. By late Tuesday, a new prime minister had been named, but the developments drew international rebuke and raised questions about the viability of the military operation, which would use the country's military to try to take back Mali's north from Islamic extremists.
Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra appeared on state television at 4 a.m. to announce his resignation, hours after soldiers stormed his house.
"Our country is living through a period of crisis. Men and women who are worried about the future of our nation are hoping for peace," he said on television. "It's for this reason that I, Cheikh Modibo Diarra, am resigning along with my entire government on this day, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. I apologize before the entire population of Mali."
The 60-year-old Diarra is a NASA astrophysicist. He is now under house arrest, said a spokesman for the junta, Bakary Mariko.
The government remains technically under the control of the interim president, Dioncounda Traore, who waited nearly 24 hours after Diarra's arrest to address the nation. Late Tuesday, he issued a decree naming a longtime civil servant, Django Sissoko, as the new prime minister.