France rejects Mali’s accusations that it helped arm Islamist fighters

France on Thursday denied accusations by Mali’s overseas minister that the French military had offered assist to Islamist teams and had violated Mali’s airspace, as Mali’s relations with Paris deteriorated because the junta took energy within the August 2020 coup, finally culminating within the withdrawal of French forces. It was accomplished on Monday after an almost decade-long mission.

The accusations signify a brand new decline in relations amid stories of the inflow of Russian mercenaries appointed by the navy authorities in Mali to fill the ability vacuum left by the exit of French forces from the nation, which raised new issues amongst Western powers concerning the safety state of affairs within the Sahel area.

Mali says France has violated its airspace and delivered weapons to Islamist militants in an try and destabilize the West African nation, within the newest wave of accusations that marked a bitter finish to their once-close relationship.

In a letter to the UN Safety Council President on Monday, Mali’s overseas minister, Abdoulaye Diop, mentioned its airspace has been breached greater than 50 instances this yr, principally by French forces utilizing drones, navy helicopters and fight plane. “France used these flagrant violations of economic airspace to gather info for terrorist teams working within the Sahel area and to drop weapons and ammunition on them,” the letter mentioned.

Mali offered no proof that France provided arms to Islamist teams. France spent 10 years and billions of {dollars} eliminating Islamist militants, some with hyperlinks to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, in its former colony and throughout the Sahel.

“It’s clear that France has by no means immediately or not directly supported these terrorist teams, which stay their designated enemies all over the world,” the French embassy in Mali mentioned on Twitter.

7) La France n’a évidemment jamais soutenu, directement or oblique, ces groupses Terrores, qui demeurent ses ennemis désignés sur l’ensemble de la planète.

– La France au Mali (FranceauMali) August 17, 2022 The embassy mentioned 53 French troopers died throughout its nine-year mission in Mali and that France killed lots of of Islamist fighters to revive safety to the Malians. She added that France was additionally attacked by Islamists at dwelling.

German troopers on the United Nations mentioned they noticed Russian troops touchdown at Gau airport and unloading tools on Monday, the day the final French soldier left, in response to a German navy doc dated Tuesday.

Fighters from the Wagner Group, a non-public navy firm linked to the Kremlin, have been supporting the Malian military in its struggle in opposition to Islamist rebels since late final yr.

French forces have been hailed as heroes in Mali in 2013 after the federal government in Bamako requested France for assist in opposition to Islamist teams that had taken management of a lot of the north, together with the fabled metropolis of Timbuktu.

However a collection of setbacks and protracted assaults by the militants have strained relations, which have worsened because the navy junta toppled the federal government in 2020 and later toppled an interim civilian authorities.

Mali’s junta known as in February for France to withdraw its forces “directly”. In Could, the junta introduced its withdrawal from the protection agreements it had concluded with France, which condemned “blatant violations” of its nationwide sovereignty by French forces.

Its navy rulers had pledged to return energy to civilians in 2022, however they later prolonged the timeline till 2024, and have been topic to regional sanctions.

(France 24 with Agence France-Presse and Reuters)

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