BAMAKO (AFP) - Malian Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra resigned on Tuesday, hours after influential former coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo ordered soldiers to arrest him at his home.

The ex-junta claims the move was not a coup, however Diarra’s resignation plunges further into crisis a troubled nation which had over half its territory seized by extremists after Sanogo ousted its government in March.

Giving no reason for his decision, a solemn and drawn Diarra announced he and his regime, which was set up as an interim authority following the putsch, would step down.

“I, Cheick Modibo Diarra, resign with my government,” Diarra said in a brief speech given at the premises of national broadcaster ORTM which aired it.

The 60-year-old astrophysicist and former chairman of Microsoft Africa thanked his supporters and expressed the hope that “the new team” would succeed in their task.

His message was delivered hours after a source in his entourage said the prime minister had been arrested by about 20 soldiers who said “Captain Sanogo sent them to arrest him.”

Earlier Diarra had cancelled a trip to Paris for a medical check-up after he discovered his baggage had been removed from the plane.

President Dioncounda Traore had yet to announce whether he had accepted the resignation, as Diarra remained under house arrest in the capital.

“The prime minister is under house arrest. He can’t see who he wants or go where he wants. There are soldiers at his house and he is not free to move around,” a member of his family told AFP.

Banks, shops and petrol stations opened as normal in Bamako, with no sign of soldiers on the streets. However several official buildings have been placed under the surveillance of paramilitary police.

A spokesman for Sanogo’s former junta in Europe, Bakary Mariko, told France 24 television the sequence of events was “not a new coup d’etat”

Mariko said Diarra was “not a man of duty” and added that a successor will “be named in the coming hours by the president.”

Sanogo emerged from obscurity to lead a military junta on March 22 which ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure’s government only six weeks before an election marking the end of his time in office.

The move came amid mounting anger by soldiers at their rout by Tuareg separatists, better equipped than the military as they waged a rebellion to conquer the north and declare independence for a homeland which they call Azawad.

While an interim government was set up weeks later, Sanogo and his men have retained considerable influence.

“Since March Sanogo and his men have been implicated in a steady stream of abuses,” Human Rights Watch researcher Corinne Dufka told AFP, naming disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests, and intimidation of journalists.

“Not one of these incidents has been properly investigated. Instead Sanogo was rewarded with a high-level government post to reform the armed forces,” she said, adding Diarra’s arrest represents “another step backward for Mali.”