Mali says it has evidence that France has been training “terrorist” groups operating in the West African country.
Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga told Sputnik on Friday that French troops had created an enclave in Kidal, a town in the desert region of northern Mali, and handed it over to a terrorist group known as Ansar al-Din.
“Mali has no access to Kidal, this is an enclave controlled by France,” he said, adding that the Malian military was banned from entering the territory.
“They have armed groups trained by French officers. We have evidence... We do not understand this situation and do not want to tolerate it,” the Malian prime minister said.
Maiga further said that the alleged terrorists that are operating in the country “came from Libya, and who destroyed the state of Libya? It was France with allies.”
A French mission began operating in Mali in 2013 to allegedly counter militants that Paris claims are linked to the al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups. This summer, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a gradual drawdown of France’s military presence in the Sahel and the end of the French military operation known as Barkhane.
Mali accused France of abandoning the conflict-ravaged country with the “unilateral” decision to withdraw troops. Mali’s military-dominated government then asked private Russian security companies for help in its fight against terrorism. Ever since, tensions have been high between France and its former colony.
Maiga said his government was justified to “seek other partners” to boost security.
Mali summoned France’s ambassador to the country on Tuesday, after Macron suggested that the Malian military government was “not even really one.” Macron said, “It’s not the role of the French army to fill in for the ‘non-work,’ if I may describe it, of the Malian state.”
The prime minster of Mali told Sputnik that France needed to understand that the junta was responsible for the country’s security and would seek assistance from other partners, since it was dissatisfied with the actions of the French government.