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Niger says all French troops will have left by December 22

The ongoing withdrawal of French troops participating in an anti-jihadist mission in Niger will be complete by December 22, the Sahel country’s army said Tuesday. Niger’s military rulers scrapped defence agreements with France, its traditional security partner, as relations nosedived following a July coup. French President Emmanuel Macron announced the forces would leave by the year’s end, with a first contingent exiting the country in October. “By December 22, all French soldiers as well as their logistics will have left Niger for good,” the army said in a statement. The withdrawal has so far been carried out “in a coordinated manner and safely”, it added. According to Niger media, 1,346 French troops and 80 percent of their logistical equipment have left, with only 157 soldiers remaining. Niger’s new rulers have rowed back on security cooperation with Western partners agreed under ousted president Mohamed Bazoum, while forging closer ties with its military-ruled neighbours Mali and Burkina Faso. All three Sahel nations are battling long-running and bloody insurgencies waged by rebels affiliated with Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group. Neighbouring West African countries agreed in Nigeria last week to maintain sanctions imposed against Niger over the coup, making any relief contingent on a speedier transition to civilian rule.

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