A French soldier who took part in the counter-terrorist operation “Dune” in Mali was killed during a mortar attack on a military base, informs press service of the Elysee Palace.
A 24-year-old soldier from the 54th Artillery Regiment, Alexandre Martin, “died in a mortar attack on a French military base in Gao (southeast Mali)” on January 22, the press release said. Nine other French soldiers were slightly injured.
In August 2014, France launched Operation Barkhane against Islamic militants in Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. It became a continuation of Operation Serval, which the French military carried out in 2013-2014 in Mali. More than 5,000 people took part in Operation Barkhan. However, in 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a sharp reduction in the contingent: by 2023, it is planned to reduce the number of French troops to 2.5 thousand. Already last summer, the French left the three northernmost military bases (Tessalit, Kidal and Timbuktu), concentrating their forces on the bases of Gao and Menaka. In December 2021, these bases were already subjected to shelling, but then there were no casualties, writes Le Figaro.
In January 2022, on the withdrawal from Mali of its military, who participated in the fight against terrorists, announced also Sweden. The Swedish Foreign Ministry explained this decision by the arrival of Russian mercenaries in Mali. “We know that Wagner PMCs are there … and if they have more influence, then it will not be possible for us to continue to operate with such a large number of troops,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde explained.
On January 13, the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, called the presence of Wagnerites in Mali a fait accompli. At the same time, a high-ranking Interfax source in the Foreign Ministry said that the Russian government did not know how many Wagnerites could be in Mali now: after the collapse of the USSR, Russians were not required to register abroad with consular officers. According to the interlocutor, the state is not involved in the activities of PMC Wagner, this is a private campaign, and under capitalism “everyone earns as he can.”
In May 2021 in Mali happened another military coup. Colonel Assimi Goitu became the interim president of the country. The UN, the European Union, the US and the African Union condemned the military takeover.
Already in the fall of 2021, negotiations began between the Malian authorities and representatives of Wagner PMCs. Russian mercenaries were reported to offer more than just military services. The subject of the bargaining steel and mineral deposits in Mali. The Wagnerians expected to obtain licenses for their development in order to have additional income. According to the same scheme, they cooperate with the authorities of the Central African Republic.
Against this background, Mali receives military assistance from Russia. On September 30, 2021, 4 military helicopters with weapons and ammunition purchased from the Russian Federation were transferred to the Ministry of Defense of Mali. The Mi-171 helicopters themselves were purchased “entirely” at the expense of the Malian budget, and the weapons and ammunition were “donated” by Moscow, said Defense Minister in the “transitional government” of Mali, Colonel Sadio Camara.