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Mali Halts MINUSMA Rotations

A man holds a banner against the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Misiion in Mali (MINUSMA) and Barkhane, an anti-insurgent operation led by the French military against Islamist groups in the Sahel. Taken in Mali, date unknown.

Mali's military-led government said on Thursday it was temporarily suspending troop rotations by U.N. peacekeeping mission MINUSMA, days after arresting 49 soldiers from Ivory Coast who it said had arrived in the country without permission.

The suspension of UN troop rotations for the nearly 12,000-strong MINUSMA mission will remain in place until Malian officials can organise a meeting with UN representatives to discuss coordination between the two sides, Mali's foreign ministry said in a statement.

When the U.N. Security Council renewed MINUSMA's mandate last month, Malian authorities vowed to defy U.N. calls to allow freedom of movement for peacekeepers to investigate human rights abuses.

Mali's halt comes following the detention of Ivorian troops nabbed after arriving on Sunday at the capital Bamako's international airport. Mali's junta said the soldiers would be considered mercenaries and charged as such.

Ivory Coast says the soldiers were deployed as part of a security and logistics support contract signed with the mission in 2019 and that they were the eighth rotation sent to Mali under the convention.

A MINUSMA spokesman initially confirmed this information, but a U.N. spokesman in New York later said no Ivorian troops had been deployed under the convention.

Mali is struggling to rein in an Islamist insurgency, which took root after an uprising in 2012 and has since spread to neighbouring countries, killing thousands and displacing millions across West Africa's Sahel region.

Bamako has supplemented its own forces with the Russia-based mercenary Wagner Group, which has been accused of significant conduct violations by independent rights-advocating NGOs and others.