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UN peacekeepers hand over one of last camps to Mali authorities

UN peacekeepers on Friday handed over one of their last camps to the Malian authorities as part of a pull-out ordered by the country’s military leaders, a UN spokeswoman said. The withdrawal of the UN stabilisation mission, known as MINUSMA, has ignited fears that fighting will intensify between troops and armed factions for territorial control. MINUSMA on Friday handed over the Mopti camp in the centre of Mali, one of the hotbeds of jihadist violence that has plagued the Sahel region for years. The pull-out went smoothly, unlike recent withdrawals in Mali’s volatile north which took place under fears of a military escalation between the army and rebel groups, UN spokeswoman Fatoumata Kaba told AFP. The Mopti camp most recently housed peacekeepers from Bangladesh and Togo, and in the past, hosted Egyptian, Pakistani and Senegalese contingents. It is one of the last camps to be handed over by MINUSMA, whose deadline for withdrawal is December 31, set by the UN Security Council. MINUSMA is due on Monday to host a ceremony to close its headquarters on the outskirts of the capital Bamako, which will mark the end of its mission, Kaba said. A “liquidation phase” will take place after January 1, involving activities such as handing over remaining equipment to the authorities. It has yet to close sites in Bamako, Gao and Timbuktu in the north. Mali’s ruling junta, which seized power in 2020, in June demanded the departure of the mission, deployed since 2013, despite being in the grip of jihadism and raging crises. That followed months of deteriorating relations. MINUSMA had for the past decade maintained around 15,000 soldiers and police in Mali. About 180 members have been killed in hostile acts. As of Friday, more than 10,500 uniformed and civilian MINUSMA personnel had left Mali, out of a total of around 13,800 staff at the start of the withdrawal, the UN mission said on X, formerly Twitter.

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