Chad to withdraw troops from Mali

2013-04-15 18:47
Chadian troops prepare in the desert near Tessalit, northern Mali. (Kenzo Tribouillard,AFP)

Chadian troops prepare in the desert near Tessalit, northern Mali. (Kenzo Tribouillard,AFP)

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N'Djamena - Chad's parliament voted overwhelmingly Monday for a gradual withdrawal of troops from Mali where 36 have died in a French-led campaign to oust armed Islamists from the north of the country.

Lawmakers were nearly unanimous in asking government to withdraw its 2 250 troops "within a reasonable timeframe".

Speaking at the session, Prime Minister Dadnadji Djimrangar said: "We paid a heavy price for this noble mission."

Experienced soldiers from the regional military heavyweight Chad who are used to fighting in harsh desert terrain played a key role in helping French troops battle Islamists insurgents in northern Mali.

France in January swept to the aid of Mali's ill-disciplined and poorly trained army and, with the aid of other African troops, has largely succeeded in driving Islamist insurgents from the north.

However pockets of resistance remain, particularly in the Gao region. At least three Chadian soldiers died on Friday in a suicide bombing in Kidal, northeast of Gao.

In addition to the 36 dead and 74 wounded, Chad spent €87m for its three-month contribution to the campaign, Djimrangar said.

Chadian President Idriss Deby told French journalists on Sunday: "The face-to-face war with the jihadists is over. The Chadian army has no real competence to confront an unknown. The Chadian soldiers will return to Chad; they have accomplished their mission."

He noted that Chad would contribute troops to a UN force in Mali if asked.

Paris pulled out 100 soldiers ahead of schedule a week ago as part of a phased withdrawal of the majority of its 4 000 troops.

France has said it will leave 2 000 soldiers on the ground throughout the summer, reducing its presence by the end of the year to a "support force" of 1 000 fighting alongside the UN-mandated army of some 11 000 troops.

Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal fell in March 2012 to Tuareg rebels who took advantage of the chaos following a coup to declare independence for the entire desert north before losing control to Islamist insurgents.

Read more on:    idriss deby  |  mali  |  chad  |  west africa
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