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Sweden to withdraw from French-led special forces mission in Mali

Brest, France (Reuters) – Sweden will withdraw its forces this year from a European special forces mission to the Sahel and review its participation in a United Nations force in Mali due to the presence of Russian private military contractors, the Swedish foreign minister said. .

Secretary of State Ann Linde has criticized Mali’s junta for attempting to seize power and employing Russian mercenaries.

“We have already decided that this year we will withdraw (from) the Takuba force,” Anne Linde told reporters on Friday on the sidelines of a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in western France.

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“The question is what are we going to do with Minosma?” she said. , referring to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali.

The Swedish parliament has approved the deployment of up to 150 soldiers to Takoba in 2020 and has about 250 military personnel as part of MINUSMA, which runs until 2024.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Sweden’s departure from Takoba in March was in line with Stockholm’s commitments and had nothing to do with the arrival of mercenaries or the political situation in the country.

A French military source said Sweden had always planned to withdraw its forces after two years and that its mandate expired in March. The source said that the Swedish officers will remain in the mission.

Takoba was established as a partial successor to a French counter-terrorism operation in the West African Sahel region that French President Emmanuel Macron has begun to reduce from its initial force of 5,000 troops.

It includes about 14 European countries that provide special forces and logistical and tactical support to work alongside regional forces for targeted operations against Islamic militants.

Russian mercenaries

Mali’s army-led interim government, which wants to extend its mandate for five years, has accused Paris of abandoning it. Arguing for security needs, Mali hired private military contractors from Russia’s Wagner Group, whose members were mostly ex-servicemen.

France and its allies have said Mali’s use of the Wagner Group conflicts with its military presence.

The arrival of Russian mercenaries in Mali has heightened tensions between Europe and Russia amid a crisis on the Ukrainian border.

French officials said Paris will discuss with its partners how to respond in practice to Wagner’s arrival in Mali.

Most of Takuba’s operations take place in the West African country.

Linde said Wagner’s assured arrival and the junta’s efforts to stay in power were unacceptable.

“We now know (there is) the Wagner Group … and if it had a stronger influence, it would not be possible to continue with such large numbers of troops from us,” she said, adding that the Swedish parliament would discuss the issue of Sweden. Operations in Mali next week.

“Of course it will have consequences.”

The European Union will impose sanctions on Mali in line with measures already taken by the Group of West African countries, on the ruling junta’s delay in holding elections in the wake of the 2020 coup, Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said Thursday.

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writing by John Irish; Editing by Emilia Sithole Mataris and Frank Jack Daniel

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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