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France agrees to pull its troops out

France’s equipment will remain in Burkina Faso until the spring, AFP reports

France has agreed to a request from Burkina Faso’s military leaders to withdraw all its troops from the country.

Burkina Faso, which is currently battling an Islamist insurgency, says it wants to defend itself.

There are currently 400 French special forces in Burkina Faso, who have just one month to leave.

On Thursday, France said it would also recall its ambassador to the country for consultations.

Burkina Faso’s junta had demanded the ambassador’s replacement over his comments about the country’s deteriorating security situation.

Last year French troops also left neighboring Mali, where they had spent eight years fighting jihadists.

France has kept close military links with many of its former colonies in West Africa and has been helping several of them fight jihadists who are active across the region under the now terminated Operation Barkhane.

Some 3,000 French soldiers are still deployed in West Africa, mostly in Niger and Chad.

Its continued ties, especially economic, have led to some resentment of its influence, which Russia has tapped into.

Both Mali and the Central African Republic are now working with the Russian mercenary group, Wagner.

Burkina Faso has denied reports that it will also engage the Wagner Group against the jihadists, but a liaison team from the mercenaries has already visited, according to the AFP news agency.

A French foreign ministry spokesperson confirmed that the Burkinabe government had sent a written request for its troops to leave.

“We will respect the terms of the agreement by honoring this request,” the spokesperson said.

Burkina Faso has been hit by a decade-long insurgency that has forced nearly two million people from their homes.

Most recently, suspected jihadists kidnapped around 60 women who were foraging for food in the north of the country, and at the beginning of the month bodies of 28 people who had been shot dead were found in the north-western town of Nouna. The women have since been released.

Since Capt Ibrahim Traoré seized power in Burkina Faso in September, there has been widespread speculation that he might start working with Russian mercenaries, which neighboring Ghana described as “distressing”.

Capt Traoré has promised to win back territory from the jihadists, and to hold democratic elections in July 2024.

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