Hollande pledges French withdrawal from Mali


France will continue operations in northern Mali, but will hand over military operations in the country in time, President Francois Hollande has told troops in Timbuktu during a one-day trip to the country.
Hollande arrived in the central garrison town of Sevare early on Saturday to meet troops and discuss a military handover to west African troops, amid allegations of civilian deaths from air strikes and ethnic reprisals during the military intervention. Hollande told the French soldiers on Friday that he was happy with their efforts and that “a lot of you French soldiers will be replaced by ECOWAS forces and our Malian friends”, whom he said he had faith in.
“The Malian authorities, and it is their responsibility, want to recover the territorial integrity that has been removed from them for some time and we will be by their side to continue this operation in the northern part of the country. But we do not have the intention of staying, because our African friends will carry on the work we have done so far,” Hollande said. “And then ECOWAS and Malians will ensure the security of the entirety of the Malian territory,” he added. Hollande’s visit to Mali comes as the French-led military intervention in the country to recapture towns from al-Qaeda-linked rebel groups was swiftly coming to a close. Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from the airport in Timbuktu, said that the final stage of the military intervention was yet to be completed.