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France’s armed forces completed their withdrawal from Mali this week, nine years after the French government sent troops to the West African nation to oust Islamic extremists from power, the Associated Press reported.

The last army unit, part of the so-called Barkhane force, left the country Monday, just six months after French President Emmanuel Macron said he would withdraw troops from Mali amid ongoing disputes with the ruling military junta.

French forces have been active in the West African country since 2013 when they intervened to tackle jihadist insurgents. At the time of Macron’s announcement, there were about 2,400 troops in Mali, part of the 4,300-strong Barkhane forces that are also deployed to other parts of the broader north African Sahel region, including in Chad and Niger.

But the recent pullout came amid tensions following two military coups in Mali in the last two years. Relations further soured over the past year between Mali, its African neighbors and the European Union after the junta allowed Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group to deploy on its territory.

The group has been accused of instigating violence and committing human rights abuses in Africa.

Meanwhile, European leaders said they are also planning to withdraw the EU-led ‘Takuba’ task force from Mali, following France’s pullout.

Still, Macron and other European leaders have repeatedly emphasized that their countries’ military operations in Mali would not mean the residents in the Sahel will be abandoned in their struggle against Islamic militants.

The French leader previously noted that the “heart” of the Barkhane force will be transferred to Niger, to serve in the region bordering Burkina Faso.

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