Mali's ex-colonizer, France, 'fully withdraws'
The French military announces the completion of its withdrawal from Mali after more than eight years of presence in the West African nation.
The last soldiers from France's Barkhane operation in Mali have left the African country as per the French chiefs of staff.
"Today at 13H00 Paris time (1100 GMT) the final contingent of the Barkhane force still on Malian territory crossed the border between Mali and Niger," the statement said.
The army had met the "major military logistics challenge" of the pullout "in an orderly and safe fashion," it added.
At its peak, France's Barkhane mission included 5,100 troops from five former French colonies in the Sahel region: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.
The forces have played critical roles in air power, troop transport, and reconnaissance. France has an air base in Niamey, Niger's capital, where drones are stationed.
Following the Malian withdrawal, the mission will have "around 2,500" troops, according to Barkhane Commander General Laurent Michon last month.
According to French sources, Paris will keep over 1,000 troops in Niger alongside local forces.
French troops are also stationed in Gabon, Ivory Coast, and Senegal, as well as in Djibouti in the east of Africa.
In June, French President Emmanuel Macron directed his government and military leaders to "rethink our overall presence on the African continent by the autumn."
Today, Macron congratulated the military on its nine-year presence in Mali, claiming it had "prevented the establishment of a territorial caliphate and fought against terrorists who attack local populations and pose a threat to Europe."
It is worth noting that France sent troops to the western African country in 2013, under the pretense of defeating jihadists in northern Mali and the Sahel, which never happened considering the increasing number of operations targeting Malian forces. The operation ended in February following the deterioration of France's ties with its ex-colony.
Malians have repeatedly taken to the streets of the capital, Bamako, in demonstrations in support of the Malian Armed Forces. The demonstrators also voiced dissatisfaction with France's actions in the country, a former colony, especially after Malian troops reportedly found bodies buried near the base in the town of Gossi, which had been under the control of French forces until they handed it over to Mali.
One of the demonstrations took place in Bamako near the Monument of Independence. Hundreds of Malians expressed dissatisfaction with France's actions, accusing the French military of the mass killings in Gossi and expressing support for Russia on the matter, considering that the French accused the Russians of staging the whole thing; a claim heavily disputed by the locals and Moscow alike.
The rally participants held posters with the slogans "Thousands of children are victims of Macron", calling Macron a white racist, "Macron, what did you need your drones for?", "Macron is the butcher of Gossi."
The demonstrations garnered many Malians' intent on getting rid of French influence in the country and holding Paris accountable for its crimes in its former colony and the largest nation in Africa.