Mali accuses France of arming Islamist fighters

The Mali accuses France of arming Islamist fighters

The authorities of Mali claim have “flagrant” evidence of violation of the country's airspace by French forces.

Mali has asked the UN Security Council for an emergency meeting to stop what it presents as “acts of aggression” by France. Bamako accuses Paris of violating its territorial sovereignty and supporting jihadist fighters militarily.

With these accusations, the military-dominated government takes its incriminations against France one step further.< /p>

The letter, addressed by the head of Malian diplomacy, Abdoulaye Diop, to the Chinese incumbent presidency of the UN Security Council, denounces the repetitive and frequent violations of national airspace by French forces over the past few months. It describes French devices engaging in activities considered espionage and attempts to intimidate.

Malian authorities have several pieces of evidence that these flagrant violations of Malian airspace were used by France to collect intelligence for the benefit of terrorist groups operating in the Sahel and to drop weapons and ammunition on them, adds Mr Diop. He suggests that the French may have transported two members of a jihadist group by helicopter in early August to the Timbuktu region.

French soldiers from the Barkhane force patrol the streets of Timbuktu, northern Mali in December 2021.

Mali invites the Security Council to work for France to immediately cease its acts of aggression and asks the Chinese presidency to communicate these elements to the members of the Security Council in view of an emergency meeting, said Mr. Diop.

Mali reserves the right to use self-defense if French actions persist, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, the minister said.

These latest manifestations of the deterioration of Franco-Malian relations coincide strictly with the departure of the last French soldiers to Mali after nine years of engagement against the jihadists. The junta in power in Mali since the August 2020 putsch has turned away from France and its allies to turn towards Russia.

Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop visited Moscow last May, where he was received by his counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The French army, pushed towards the exit, successively left and transferred to the Malian authorities its various bases in Mali, the last, Monday, in Gao.

The Russians seem to have not hung around. The German government said on Wednesday it had information that around 20-30 people, probably Russians in uniform, were spotted unloading a plane at Gao airport on the day of the French departure. /p>

The airport adjoins the perimeter which included the French base, and also includes the camp of the UN mission (MINUSMA), with a strong German contingent.< /p>

General Bruno Baratz, commander of the French anti-jihadist force in the Sahel, found it surprising that the French were accused of supporting the jihadists.

It's a bit insulting to the memory of our 59 [French] comrades who fell fighting for Mali, and also to the memory of all the Malians who fought alongside us, but also the staff of MINUSMA, African forces of MINUSMA who fell fighting against terrorism, he told Radio France Internationale in Niger, a neighboring country of Mali and ally of France which accepted the maintenance of a French air base in Niamey.

Asked about the accusations made by Mali against France, the deputy spokesman for the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, said that the United Nations was extremely grateful to France and the French forces for their commitment to stabilizing Mali. Without giving a name, Farhan Haq said he hoped that any other country cooperating with the Malian authorities would also try to play a stabilizing role.

As for an emergency meeting of the Council , he said the decision was up to its members.

Mali is not a member of the Security Council and its request must be relayed by a member state. A diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity in New York said it was unlikely such a meeting would take place.

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