France begins first major stage of Mali withdrawal

France is set to begin the first major stage of its military withdrawal from Mali, four months after sending troops to push Islamist rebels out the north.

A convoy of 80 lorries will leave a French base outside the capital, Bamako, and drive south to Ivory Coast.

France began withdrawing some of its 4,000 troops from the country in April.

They plan to gradually hand over to the Malian army and a UN peacekeeping force, which will deploy in July ahead of planned nationwide elections.

The withdrawal on Saturday, May 25 comes just two days after Islamist rebels targeted an army barracks and French-run uranium mine in neighboring Niger, killing 21 people. French special forces helped Nigerien soldiers end a hostage siege at the barracks on Friday.

It is not known if the attacks will affect French troop deployments.

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