German army sends civilian airplane to relieve troops in Mali

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German army sends civilian airplane to relieve troops in Mali

The German Army dispatched a civilian airplane from Cologne on Thursday to rotate troops in Mali, after authorities in the west African state finally granted permission, a German military spokesperson told dpa.

The plane took off with 88 soldiers from the UN mission MINUSMA and 5 soldiers from the EU training mission EUTM Mali on board, sources close to German parliament said in a briefing.

Mali's provisional military government suspended troop rotations for the UN mission on July 14.

Thursday's flight is the first one enabling troop rotations for Germans since then, according to the parliamentary sources. The plans are for the plane to also fly German soldiers from Mali back to Germany.

Mali, with a population of around 20 million, has experienced three military coups since 2012 and is considered politically extremely unstable. Since the most recent coup in May 2021, it has been led by a military government that has been criticized by Western countries for close relations with Russia.

The German civilian flight was an alternative to the flight with a military aircraft, which the transitional government of Mali would not allow.

Germany has been participating in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), a peacekeeping force established to boost security after the Tuareg Rebellion of 2012, an early stage of the ongoing armed conflict in the country.

Berlin announced last week that it was suspending its military operations after the government of Mali repeatedly denied the Bundeswehr overflight rights, which it needs to facilitate troop rotation.

Western powers have been reassessing their commitments to Mali amid hostility from the junta, with France and other European countries recently withdrawing troops involved in counter-terrorism operations against Islamist insurgents.

On Monday, France withdrew the last soldiers of its anti-terrorism Barkhane mission from Mali.

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