Nigeria 'to withdraw some troops from Mali'

19.07.2013 13:31

Nigeria is planning to withdraw some
of its 1,200 soldiers from the UN
peacekeeping force in Mali, Ivory
Coast President Alassane Ouattara
has said.
Mr Ouattara, head of the regional group
Ecowas, said the troops were needed at
home to tackle militant Islamists.
It is not yet clear how many Nigerian
troops will stay in Mali, where an
election is due to be held on 28 July.
The Nigerians are part of a force of
12,600 African troops who took over
from a French-led mission on 1 July.
French and West African troops drove
militant Islamists out of northern Mali in
The UN force - known by its French
acronym Minusma - is now working with
the Malian army to provide security for
the election. It is due to grow to 11,200
troops, plus 1,400 police, by the end of
the year.
President Ouattara, speaking at a summit
of West African nations in the Nigerian
capital Abuja, said the withdrawal was
"because of the domestic situation in
"They are not withdrawing everyone. A
good part of the troops are going to be
there," he said.
The BBC's Alex Duval Smith in Bamako
says a full battalion of Nigerian soldiers -
850 men - will be withdrawing before a
potential second round of voting on 11
They are based near the northern town
of Timbuktu, she says, adding that their
withdrawal will be a blow for the new
UN force.
An unnamed military source told the AFP
news agency that the move was partly in
protest after a non-Nigerian was named
to head Minusma.
"Nigeria feels shabbily treated... we think
we can make better use of those people
at home than to keep them where they
are not appreciated," the source said.
Nigerian soldiers are also being pulled
out of the joint UN-African Union
mission in Sudan's Darfur region,
according to Reuters news agency.
More than 2,000 people have been killed
since militant group Boko Haram
launched its insurgency in 2009 to create
an Islamic state in the mainly Muslim
north of Nigeria.
A state of emergency was declared on 14
May in the north-eastern states of
Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, with more
than 2,000 soldiers deployed to break
up Boko Haram camps and insurgent
This month's election in Mali is intended
to end months of political crisis that
started when soldiers overthrew
President Amadou Toumani Toure in
March 2012, allowing separatist rebels
and Islamist militants to seize the north
of the country.
France - the former colonial power in
Mali - and sent more than 4,000 troops,
backed by soldiers from African
countries, there in January after rebels
threatened the capital.
Western donors have agreed a $43bn
(£28bn) package for Mali's economic
recovery plan linked to the
implementation of a political road map
that includes the elections.