European force battling extremists withdraws from Mali

FILE - Soldiers from the European Task force Takuba march during the annual Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, Wednesday July 14, 2021. A European military task force fighting extremists in Mali has formally withdrawn from the West African country amid tensions with its ruling military junta. The French military spearheaded the Takuba task force, and announced Friday, July 1, 2022 that it officially ended its work. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly, File)
FILE – Soldiers from the European Task force Takuba. (AP Photo)

A European military task force that helped Mali’s government fight extremists has formally withdrawn from the West African country amid tensions with its ruling military junta.

The French military, which spearheaded the Takuba task force, announced Friday that it officially ended its work Thursday. The move was tied to France’s decision earlier this year to withdraw troops from Mali after nine years of helping Malian forces fight violent extremists who had threatened to seize power.

The European departure comes after at least 132 people were killed in several villages in central Mali in recent weeks in attacks blamed on jihadi rebels linked to al-Qaida, and after a contractor for the UN peacekeeping force in Mali was killed Thursday.

The European Takuba force was composed of several hundred special forces troops from 10 countries: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden. It aimed at training and protecting Malian combat forces.

Despite the withdrawal, the French military called the force a “strategic and tactical success” and an example of “what Europeans are able to achieve together in complex security environments,” saying that lessons learned from Takuba could be used in future joint operations.