A Malian government spokesman says the country's former defense minister has been criminally charged in connection with the slayings of 21 soldiers who had opposed a coup leader's rise to power.

Spokesman Mahamane Baby said Friday that Gen. Yamoussa Camara was accused of being complicit in the murders of the soldiers, which took place back in 2012 not long after a coup leader seized control of Mali.

The killings are believed to have taken place in April 2012, when forces loyal to the ousted president attempted to grab back power from coup leader Amadou Haya Sanogo.

In December, a mass grave containing 21 skulls was discovered near the military barracks that had served as Sanogo's headquarters. Sanogo already has been charged with complicity in the kidnapping of his fellow soldiers.