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France to start withdrawing troops from Niger “this week”

French troops are leaving Niger weeks after President Emmanuel Macron has stated he refuses to be “held hostage” by the new Niger authority and cuts off military co-operation with this West African country.

The decision to withdraw 1,500 troops is a huge blow to France’s influence in the Sahel region.

We will begin our disengagement operation this week, in good order, safely and in coordination with the Nigeriens.

The statement came a week after the French ambassador to Niamey returned home under pressure from the Niger authorities who had come to power as a result of a coup.

Paris soldiers were stationed in Niger as part of a more global fight against insurgents across the Sahel region. Macron announced on September 24 the withdrawal of French troops “by the end of the year.”

About 400 military personnel are deployed with local troops in northwestern Niger, near its borders with Burkina Faso and Mali, at the “three borders” zone known as haven for the Daesh terrorist group.

Military headquarters stated that the departing soldiers might need cover to leave their unprotected forward positions, including air support from a larger force at an airbase near the capital Niamey.

The soldiers have been living in uncertainty since the new government began demanding their withdrawal, holding repeated anti-French demonstrations near the Niamey base.

France increased its presence in Niger after another coup-born military rule in Mali demanded the withdrawal of French troops. Now they will have to leave the region either through Benin to the south or via Chad to the east, where France’s Sahel headquarters is located.

Niamey is currently banning French flights over its territory.


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