BAMAKO: France has begun a major troop withdrawal from Mali four months after it intervened in the battle against Islamist militants in the country’s troubled North.
The French government has resolved to draw down troop numbers to 1,000 by the end of this year from the initial 4,000 deployed in January.
The Malian army, in tandem with a UN peacekeeping force, will replace the French army in July ahead of countrywide elections.
Saturday’s withdrawal comes just two days after Islamist rebels targeted an army barracks and French-run uranium mine in neighbouring Niger, killing 21 people. French special forces helped Nigerien soldiers end a hostage siege at the barracks on Friday.