France Condemns ‘Manipulation’ Over Mali Withdrawal
France on Thursday condemned “increasing manipulation of information” about its military withdrawal from its former colony Mali, where the military junta this week accused it of backing jihadists.
“We condemn the increasing manipulation of information, which must not distract any attention at all from the worsening security and humanitarian situation” in Mali, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
France’s last remaining troops quit Mali this week after a nine-year deployment against a jihadist insurgency.
The former colonial power’s soldiers were once welcomed, but relations have turned sour following repeated military coups in Bamako.
Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said in a letter to the Chinese presidency of the UN Security Council on Monday that France was committing “acts of aggression.”
Diop claimed that French forces committed “repetitive and frequent violations” of Malian airspace, even suggesting that the flights were “to collect intelligence for the benefit of terrorist groups… and to drop arms and ammunition to them.”
“France will continue its fight against terrorism in the Sahel and West Africa without letting up,” the French foreign ministry spokesman said Thursday.
He added that Paris had shown “full transparency with the Malian armed forces and the partners engaged by our side” during the withdrawal.
The French army said Wednesday that its anti-jihadist Barkhane operation in the Sahel region would retain around 3,000 troops even after the Mali drawdown, many of them based in Niger.
Meanwhile, the Bamako junta has brought in support from Russian paramilitaries, believed by France to be “mercenaries” from the pro-Kremlin Wagner group.