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Last French troops leave Niger, ending decade of Sahel missions


 , Updated 19:50, 22-Dec-2023

The last French troops deployed in Niger left on Friday, an AFP journalist reported, marking an end to more than a decade of French anti-jihadist operations in West Africa's Sahel region. 

"Today's date (...) marks the end of the disengagement process of French forces in the Sahel," Niger army lieutenant Salim Ibrahim said at a ceremony in Niamey marking the end of France's military presence. 

The French exit from Niger leaves hundreds of U.S. military personnel, and a number of Italian and German troops, remaining in the country.

France said it would pull out its roughly 1,500 soldiers and pilots from Niger after the country's new ruling generals demanded they depart following the coup on July 26.

It was the third time in less than 18 months that French troops were sent packing from a country in the Sahel.

They were forced to leave Mali last year and Burkina Faso earlier this year following military takeovers in those countries too.

All three nations are battling a jihadist insurgency that erupted in northern Mali in 2012, later spreading to Niger and Burkina Faso.

But a string of coups in the region since 2020 have seen relations nosedive with France and a pivot towards greater rapprochement with Russia.

French President Emmanuel Macron in September announced the withdrawal of all French troops from Niger by the end of the year, with a first contingent leaving in October.

The Nigerien army said last week their departure would be complete by Friday.

(Cover: French troops, under escort from Niger forces, withdraw from Niamey, Niger, on October 10, 2023. /CFP)

Source(s): AFP
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