FRANCE, France — French President Francois Hollande said Sunday that Gen. Pierre de Gaulle would be succeeded by Gen. Jean-Paul Dumas as defense minister, but the president said it was premature to make a decision.
The announcement came a day after a military coup d’etat that took place in the southern town of Lille and led to the arrest of a number of senior members of the military.
The coup attempt occurred on the eve of the start of the French presidential election, which is set for May 5.
The president has vowed to defend his government.
French media reported that the military was holding several senior officers hostage.
The country’s intelligence agency, the DGSI, said the detainees had been taken into custody overnight and that the officers were held in a holding facility in the south of France.
In an address to the nation Sunday evening, Hollande said that Dumas, who has served in the military since 2003, would be “the most important military figure in French history.”
The announcement comes after the death last month of the commander of France’s Joint Operations Command, which was responsible for defending French troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The command, based in the city of Basra, Iraq, was responsible to the French military, the French Defense Ministry said.
The country’s most senior general has not been seen in public since his arrest on Friday in Lille.
He is also under investigation by French police and the country’s foreign intelligence agency.
Dumas, a former French general, is a member of the conservative National Assembly and one of France´s longest-serving presidents.
He served as defense secretary under Francois Mitterrand from 1981 to 1986.