First French convoy withdrawing from Niger arrives in Chad: military
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First French convoy withdrawing from Niger arrives in Chad: military

The first French road convoy containing troops withdrawing from Niger following the overthrow of its president has arrived in neighbouring Chad, the French military said on Thursday. The convoy “has arrived without any particular problems” in the Chadian capital N’Djamena after nine days on the road, French general staff spokesman colonel Pierre Gaudilliere told AFP. The troops will from there depart by air back to France. Gaudilliere said the road journey had taken place in coordination with Nigerien forces. Last week, France started the pullout from Niger following the overthrow in July of president Mohamed Bazoum, a key ally of Paris in the region, which threw French strategy for the Sahel into disarray. The French army faces repatriating its equipment mostly overland through Chad and then Cameroon — a distance of more than 3,000 kilometres (around 1,860 miles) some of which is known to harbour jihadist groups. Roughly 1,400 soldiers were based in the capital Niamey and western Niger to battle fighters linked to the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda, bringing with them fighter jets, drones, helicopters and armoured vehicles — as well as the equipment to support them. The first convoy arrived in Chad after travelling by road in armoured vehicles under Nigerien escort for the journey of over 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles). Chad’s capital N’Djamena is the site of France’s military headquarters for the whole Sahel region, with around 1,000 troops deployed there. It is the third time in 18 months that French troops have been sent packing by a former African colony, dealing a severe blow to France’s influence on the continent and prestige on the international stage. On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Deby for talks at the Elysee. They discussed regional issues as well as “the return to France of our military assets”, said the French presidency.

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