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Authorities in Mali arrested 49 soldiers from Cote d’Ivoire on Sunday at Bamako airport. And the government spokesman announced, today, Monday, that they are considered “mercenaries” and “illegally arrived in the region,” adding that the file “was referred to the competent judicial authorities.” Cote d’Ivoire demanded their release on Tuesday.
For two days, the Malian authorities have arrested 49 soldiers from Côte d’Ivoire who were arrested on Sunday at Bamako airport, the government spokesman said on Monday, July 11, and are now considered “mercenaries”.
Cote d’Ivoire on Tuesday asked Mali to release “without delay” its 49 soldiers who were “unjustly” arrested Sunday at Bamako airport and accused by the authorities of this country of being “mercenaries”.
“No Ivorian soldier from this unit was in possession of weapons and ammunition of war,” notes a press release from the Ivorian presidency published at the end of an extraordinary meeting of the National Security Council.
“Forty-nine soldiers from Côte d’Ivoire have been found to have been illegally on the national territory of Mali (…) in possession of weapons and ammunition of war, without a significant order or permission,” announced the door on Monday – government spokesman, Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga in a statement Monday evening on national television.
“The murderous intention of the detainees was clearly to break the dynamics of re-establishing Mali and its security, as well as to return to the constitutional order,” he said.
Mali, a landlocked country in the heart of the Sahel region, has been the scene of two military coups in August 2020 and May 2021. It recently adopted a transition timetable to allow civilians to return to power in March 2024.
The political crisis goes hand in hand with a serious security crisis that has been going on since the outbreak of independence and jihadist rebellions in the north in 2012.
MINUSMA spokesperson Olivier Salgado had earlier hinted that the captured soldiers are part of MINUSMA’s “National Support Elements” (NSE) logistics.
Olivier Salgado said on his Twitter account that NSEs are “patriotic personnel who are deployed by troop-contributing countries, to support their units”, “a common practice in peacekeeping missions”.
He also said, “According to our information, their relief on July 10 would have previously been reported to the national authorities.”
The financial authorities, for their part, indicated that their Ministry of Foreign Affairs had not been informed through official channels.
The Malian government also referred to a “flagrant violation” of the Mali Penal Code that “criminalizes attacks on the external security of the state, including attacks on the integrity of the territory.”
A diplomat from Cote d’Ivoire told AFP under cover that some of the detained Ivorian soldiers had come to Mali on the basis of an agreement to work on the logistics base of Coastal Aviation Services (SAS) on behalf of MINUSMA.
The Malian government, for its part, assures that four different versions were put forward by the captured soldiers to justify their presence on Malian territory: “The secret mission, rotation within the framework of MINUSMA, securing the logistics base of the Sahel company. Aviation services and protection of the German battalion.”
Containing the spread of jihadists
And then decided to “immediately end the activity of protecting foreign forces for the airline” Coast Aviation Services “and demand its immediate exit from Malian territory.”
News of the “arrest” of Cote d’Ivoire soldiers began to spread on social media, Sunday, before it spread widely, as some accused these soldiers of being “mercenaries” who came to Mali to “implement a coup”.
The Ivorian authorities issued no official response on Monday evening.
In January, the military council asked Denmark to withdraw its troops, which had just arrived but had been deployed “without its consent”. Copenhagen had denounced a “dirty political game”.
The ruling military junta in Bamako turned away from France and its partners, and turned to Russia to try to stop the spread of the jihad that had spread in the center of the country alongside neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
This violence caused the deaths of thousands of civilians and military personnel, in addition to hundreds of thousands of displaced persons.
With nearly 13,000 troops, the Minusma – created in 2013 to support the political process in Mali – was extended for a year on June 29.