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French Army Starts Leaving Niger

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The junta in Niger has asked that French military convoys leave their facilities in the southwest of the country, a move that has further damaged France’s standing in the conflict-torn Sahel area of West Africa.

Pick-up vehicles and armoured personnel carriers filled with French soldiers traversed the dusty outskirts of the city Niamey on Tuesday. This came after the junta announced late on Monday that the departure would begin the next day.

The military administration asked for the public’s help in a statement broadcast on state television. It said that the troop moves would involve part of the 1,500 French soldiers who were leaving Niger to travel to Chad by road, a hundreds-kilometer trek through occasionally unstable area.

According to a joint France-Niger departure plan, Niger’s military would support the French convoys evacuating by land with security.

Last month, under intense pressure from the military leaders who took over in July, France decided to remove its troops stationed in Niger. This marked the end of France’s military relationship with its former colony and coincided with a surge of anti-French sentiment in the area.

The military of neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso have also driven out French soldiers since taking control of those countries, creating a huge vacuum in international attempts to quell the ten-year Islamist insurgency in the Sahel and escalating Western worries about Russia’s growing influence in Africa.

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