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European Force Exits Mali Amid Tensions with Junta

FILE - Soldiers from the European Task force Takuba march on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, Wednesday July 14, 2021. A European military task force fighting extremists in Mali has formally withdrawn from the West African country amid tensions with its ruling military junta.

A European military task group that assisted Mali's government in combating Islamic militants has formally departed from the West African country, citing disagreements with the ruling military junta.

The French military, which led the Takuba task group, said Friday that it had completed its mission in Mali. The move came after France decided earlier this year to exit Mali after nine years of anti-jihadist operations.

France has accused Mali’s authorities of neglecting the fight against Islamic extremists. But despite the withdrawal, the French military called the force a “strategic and tactical success” and an example of “what Europeans are able to achieve together in complex security environments."

The European exit comes as at least 132 people were killed in recent weeks in attacks blamed on Islamist al-Qaida-connected fighters in central Mali, and after a contractor for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali was assassinated on Thursday.

It also comes as Mali's junta has grown closer to Russia, s Moscow has looked to build alliances and gain sway in Africa.

The U.N. Security Council voted Wednesday to maintain the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, while condemning its military rulers for using mercenaries who are accused of committing human rights and humanitarian violations.

The junta has hired mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group, which has been accused by the European Union and human rights groups of violating human rights and international humanitarian law. While the Kremlin denies links to the company, Western analysts call it a tool of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The European Takuba force was composed of several hundred special forces troops from 10 countries: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden. It aimed at training and protecting Malian combat forces.

This report was sourced from information provided by the Associated Press