French troops were yesterday handing back a military base in Northeastern Mali ahead of a final withdrawal from the Sahel nation, France’s army said, after nine years fighting a jihadist insurgency.

And the UN’s emissary there warned that their withdrawal could leave Menaka, where they were based, vulnerable to a jihadist attack.

The departure from the Menaka base “was conducted in good order, safely and in transparent fashion”, said French army spokesman General Pascal Ianni in Paris.

It comes ahead of the last withdrawal from Mali “at the end of the summer” when France’s main military base at Gao will be returned to Malian forces, he added

But El-Ghassim Wane, the UN Secretary General’s special representative in Mali, warned that the pull-out could spell trouble for Menaka.

He had visited the town two weeks ago, he said, and people there he had spoken to “did not rule out an attack on Menaka town”, where 5,000 people forced to flee the violence in the region had taken shelter.


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