OUAGADOUGOU: The commander of French anti-extremist power Barkhane, Basic Laurent Michon, on Thursday accused “mercenaries” from Russian group Wagner of “preying” on Mali.
French-Malian relations began to nosedive after a army coup ousted Mali’s elected president in August 2020.
The junta snubbed French appeals for an early return to civilian rule after which turned to Russian army operatives — “mercenaries” from the pro-Kremlin Wagner group, in France’s view — to assist its anti-extremist combat.
Michon spoke as French forces finalize a withdrawal from Mali, bringing out army gear by way of neighboring Niger.
“The mining code in Mali has modified and now… a sure variety of measures have been taken to use three gold websites for Wagner,” he alleged.
“It’s referred to as preying, plain and easy.”
The French common accused the group of appearing like a drug “supplier,” “giving Mali a primary dose without cost: safety in opposition to the nasty French” and fast fixes, earlier than looking for its personal pursuits.
“In central Mali, they took 200 individuals prisoner, who had been all executed quickly afterwards,” he stated, criticizing one such “fast outcome by mercenaries.”
However Michon stated France’s withdrawal from the Sahel nation had nothing to do with “Wagner’s arrival in Mali.”
It was fairly as a result of Bamako expressing its want to “see us go away immediately,” he stated.
After leaving Mali, Barkhane would supply assist solely to international locations requesting it — “on-demand assist, tailored with flexibility to swimsuit the intentions of such or such nation.”
As soon as France’s pullout from Mali is finished, solely 2,500 French troops are to stay within the Sahel area.
As a substitute of appearing within the place of native forces, French troopers are to tackle extra of a supporting position, and the host nation will take the lead, they are saying.
A 2019 report by Worldwide Disaster Group estimated that as much as 700,000 individuals labored in small-scale gold mining in Mali, producing 20 to 50 tons of the valuable steel per yr.