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UN pulls peacekeeping force out of Timbuktu early amid insecurity in Mali

UN pulls peacekeeping force out of Timbuktu early amid insecurity in Mali

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UN pulls peacekeeping force out of Timbuktu early amid insecurity in Mali

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(AFP) - The last Minusma personnel left the Timbuktu region this week, a UN spokesperson told the media, and the mission handed over its camp there in an official ceremony on Thursday.

Minusma officially ended its operations in Mali earlier this month, after a decade in the country. It was originally due to begin handing over its remaining bases in Timbuktu and Gao, to the east, in January.

But the precarious security situation in a region prone to jihadist attacks precipitated a speedier pullout from Timbuktu.

"Given the lack of a solution for the internal security of the Minusma base in Timbuktu, it was necessary to close this base urgently," a UN source told French news agency AFP., speaking on condition of anonymity.

Accelerated departure

Mali's military junta, which seized power in a coup in 2021, demanded that Minusma leave immediately last June amid deteriorating relations.

Since then it has handed back around a dozen of its positions, some of which came under attack from armed groups as the peacekeepers withdrew.

Last month Tuareg rebels claimed to have seized a camp evacuated by Minusma in the northern town of Kidal, amid a surge in separatist violence.

The UN says it would typically allow 18 months to fully wrap a peacekeeping mission of this kind, but is aiming to move faster in Mali.

"Since July, the mission has withdrawn almost 1,867 military and 173 police personnel, as well as 226 civilian personnel from Timbuktu," spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told China's Xinhua news agency.

The abrupt departure has local suppliers concerned, according to RFI's West Africa correspondent Serge Daniel, who reports that workers and subcontractors hired by the mission are worried they won't receive their full fees now the mission has been cut short.