France has said that all of its troops battling a long-running insurgency in Mali since 2013 have now left the country, following a decision in February to withdraw over the deterioration of relations between Paris and Bamako.
France and military allies said on Monday that after almost a decade based in Mali fighting insurgents around West Africa, they would move to Niger instead.
“Since this morning…this redeployment has been effective with the departure from Mali of the last French soldier of Operation Barkhane,” the Elysee said in a statement.
“France remains engaged in Sahel, in the Gulf of Guinea and the Lake Chad region with all partners committed to stability and to the fight against terrorism,” it said.
Coups in Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso have weakened France’s alliances in its former colonies, emboldened insurgency groups, who control large swathes of desert and scrubland, and opened the door to greater Russian influence.
German troops were set to replace French forces in Mali, but the German defence ministry suspended most of its operations in the African country on Friday after the local military-led government denied flyover rights to the UN peacekeeping mission.
The German move followed the decision of Mali’s junta to turn away from France and move toward Russia in its fight against insurgents.
The long-running insurgency has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
The relationship between Bamako and Paris, its former colonial power and traditional ally, has deteriorated in recent months.