NewsWorldIn Mali, Russian forces in uniform spotted in Gao,...

In Mali, Russian forces in uniform spotted in Gao, after the withdrawal of the French army

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French soldiers from Operation “Barkhane” patrol the streets of Gao in December 2021. THOMAS COEX / AFP The German government reported on Wednesday August 16 the “presumed presence of Russian forces in uniform” in the city Gao, just after the departure on Monday of the last soldiers of Operation “Barkhane”. The presence of Russian forces was detected as soon as the French soldiers left, a German foreign ministry spokesman said. A Russian presence in this area “would modify the environment of the mission”, warned, without further details, this spokesperson. Gao is home to a contingent of German soldiers, not far from the former base occupied by the French. Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers In Mali, the discreet withdrawal of the last French soldiers from Operation “Barkhane” The German ambassador to Mali contacted the Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs directly on this subject. The German government is also in contact with the United Nations. Berlin has in particular “awareness” of the presence of a plane which could have been handed over to Mali by Russia, which was in service at Gao airport on Monday. “We have information that approximately twenty to thirty people, who cannot be attributed to the Malian armed forces, were seen in a hangar loading and unloading this aircraft,” a spokeswoman for the German ministry said. of the defence, adding that these elements were the subject of a “thorough examination”. It is a “L-39 type land combat and training aircraft”, delivered by Russia to the Malians, underlines the German army in a letter, unveiled Tuesday by the weekly Der Spiegel, addressed to the business committees Foreign Affairs and Defense of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament. A French military presence halved Pushed out by a hostile Malian junta, the French have over the past six months transferred all of their holdings to the Malian army. In total, France had to take some 4,000 containers and a thousand vehicles out of Mali, including hundreds of armored vehicles, while the Sahel is experiencing an outbreak of violence, which the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, Bamako’s new ally, is struggling to contain. stem. On the French side, the military presence in the Sahel will be halved by the end of the year, i.e. 2,500 soldiers. Niger has accepted the maintenance of an air base in Niamey and the support of 250 soldiers for its military operations on the Malian border. Chad will continue to host a French hold in N’Djamena, and France hopes to retain a contingent of special forces in Ouagadougou, the Burkinabé capital. Read also Article reserved for our subscribers “Barkhane”, defeat of a politico-military utopia On the other hand, the French forces will no longer carry out missions – and will no longer pursue armed activists – in Malian territory once the withdrawal has been completed, had French officials said. More than 2,000 civilians have been killed in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso since the start of the year, according to calculations by Agence France-Presse, based on a compilation by the specialized NGO Acled. In nine years of presence in the Sahel, the French army has lost 59 soldiers. To not miss any African news, subscribe to the World Africa newsletter from this link. Every Saturday at 6 a.m., find a week of news and debates covered by the editorial staff of Le Monde Afrique. Le Monde with AFP and Reuters

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