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1ST LEAD Macron visits French troops in Mali to support anti-terrorism fight By Pol O'Graidagh and Kristin Palitza, dpa

Europe
19.05.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Paris (dpa) - President Emmanuel Macron on Friday arrived in northern Mali to visit French troops fighting against Islamist militants, five days after taking office.

Television pictures showed Macron being welcomed in the northern town of Gao by Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

He then inspected a guard of honour and greeted local dignitaries.

The 39-year-old president is expected to visit the base of the French military force in Gao, accompanied by Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defence Minister Sylvie Goulard.

About 4,000 French soldiers are stationed in the West African nation and other countries across the Sahel as part of "Operation Barkhane" to combat terrorism and a persistent jihadist insurgency.

Gao is also a base for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, which has more than 10,000 military and police personnel stationed in the former rebel stronghold.

A French military intervention in January 2013 turned back a separatist insurgency in Mali‘s north, but various Islamist groups continue to stage attacks.

In January, 60 people were killed and 115 injured after a suicide car bomb attack in Gao.

 

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