Mali protesters give the French "Barkhane" force 72 hours to leave
Dozens of people demonstrated in Gao, the last stronghold of the French in Mali, to protest the continued presence of the French "Barkhane" force, giving it 72 hours to leave, AFP reported.
The agency quoted the demonstrators, who presented themselves as the "living forces" of the city of Gao in the north of the country, as saying: "From Sunday, August 14, 2022, we are giving a 72-hour ultimatum for Barkhane's final departure from us."
Gao is home to the last French soldiers in Mali who are leaving for Niger.
Pictures received by "AFP" showed demonstrators waving banners with the words "Barkhane Arhali", "Barkhane, the godfather of terrorist groups and their ally", "No foreign power can make Mali their booty."
These messages are being circulated, especially in staunch anti-French circles and on social networks.
Relations between the ruling military in Bamako and Paris have deteriorated sharply in recent months, especially since the arrival of the paramilitary forces from the Russian "Wagner" group in Mali, which pushed the two countries to a rupture after 9 years of continuous French presence.
On May 4, the ruling military junta of Mali declared that France no longer had a "legal basis" to carry out military operations on the country's territory, after Bamako withdrew from key defense agreements.
On July 1, France announced the end of the deployment of the "Takuba" force, which includes European special forces tasked with supporting the Malian forces in the fight against armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS.