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France to put off Mali redeployment after Kidal clashes

A French military helicopter escorts the vehicle of Malian Prime Minister Moussa Mara on a visit to Kidal this weekend
A French military helicopter escorts the vehicle of Malian Prime Minister Moussa Mara on a visit to Kidal this weekend AFP/Fabien Offner

France is to delay plans to redeploy troops in northern Mali to other countries in the Sahel region following the weekend’s clashes between Tuareg separatists and Malian troops.

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Earlier this month France announced it was ending the “frontal war phase” of its military operation in Mali, where it sent troops in 2013.

Dossier: War in Mali

The Serval operation aimed to free the country's vast desert north from Islamists and Tuareg rebels who seized control after a coup.

Paris was initially hoping to move around 3,000 soldiers serving in Mali to other countries in the Sahel region to fight Islamist groups there.

Last weekend in Paris a conference of French, west African and American leaders pledged to fight Nigeria's Boko Haram.

But at the same time in the northern Malian town of Kidal Tuareg seperatists of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) took 32 civil servants hostage and clashed with Malian troops in a battle that left eight soldiers and 28 MNLA fighters of the dead.

The civil servants were freed on Monday

A source at the French Defence Ministry said on Tuesday the redeployment had been delayed for “a few weeks”.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has called off a 25 May trip to Mali, where he was to discuss plans for the redeployment, and Chad, where the new broader operation will be based.
 

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