Niger group calls for French anti-jihadist force to quit

Niger group calls for French anti-jihadist force to quit
France has been decreasing its presence in the Sahel region of Africa over the past few months, and recently completed a full withdrawal of its troops from Mali after they were asked to leave.
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French troops recently withdrew from neighbouring Mali after nearly a decade of anti-terrorist operations [Getty]

A civil society movement in Niger launched an online petition on Wednesday to demand the departure of France's Barkhane anti-jihadist operation, after the authorities banned a protest against the French mission.

France said on Monday it had pulled out its last troops from neighbouring Mali, after nearly a decade of helping to fight jihadists in the region.

Paris has since downsized its presence in the wider Sahel to around 3,000 troops based in Niger and Chad, a French army spokesman said on Wednesday.

The M26 movement, which includes several Nigerien civil society groups, said on Wednesday it would respect the "banning" of a protest it had planned for the day.

But it had decided to "launch an online petition against Barkhane's presence in Niger", it said.

President Mohamed Bazoum should "make it leave our country", as he should "any other evil force whose aim is to destabilise and/or plunder the resources of our country and the Sahel", it said.

In April, Nigerien lawmakers had voted in favour of foreign troops, including French soldiers, deploying in the country to fight jihadists.

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But late last year, France faced a wave of anger in Niger.

A convoy left Ivory Coast on its way to resupplying French troops at a base in Mali, but encountered protests in Burkina Faso and then in western Niger.

Shots were fired to disperse crowds in the town of Tera, killing three people.

It was not immediately clear whether Nigerien or French forces had fired the deadly shots, and both countries said they wanted to compensate the families of the victims.

French forces first intervened in the Sahel's jihadist emergency in 2013, sending troops to support Malian forces fighting a regional insurgency.

It widened the effort a year later with Operation Barkhane, at its peak deploying some 5,500 troops, warplanes and drones in former colonies Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.