French forces withdraw from West African nation of Mali after 8 years

2021-12-15 16:05:13
French forces withdraw from West African nation of Mali after 8 years

French troops have left a key military base in the city of Timbuktu in northern Mali, handing it over to the Malian army nearly a decade after a military intervention in the West African country.

At a ceremony on Tuesday, the French flag was lowered and the Malian flag raised in its place at the base, where a force of about 150 soldiers had remained after France decided to scale down its military presence in the country earlier this year.

The highly symbolic departure came after France withdrew its troops from its bases in the northern towns of Kidal and Tessalit in October and November, respectively.

Mali has become increasingly engulfed in violence since a Tuareg uprising in 2012 was hijacked by extremist militants, who perpetrated ethnic killings and attacks on government forces and civilians despite the presence of French and UN troops.

A French mission began operating in Mali in 2013 to allegedly counter militants that Paris claims were linked to the al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups.

In June, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a gradual drawdown of France’s military presence in the Sahel and the end of the “Operation Barkhane.”

Mohamed Ibrahim, the former president of the Timbuktu regional council, also described the day as "joyful" and "beautiful".

Opposition to the French military presence has been growing in recent years with rising insecurity and increased terrorist attacks fuelling anti-French sentiments in the former colony of France.

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