Burkina Faso, France mark official end of military operations
France and Burkina Faso have officially marked the end of French military operations in the West African nation, the Burkinabe armed forces said, after a flag-lowering ceremony at the French special forces’ camp a day earlier.
In January, Burkina Faso gave France one month to withdraw its troops as it ended a military accord that allowed French troops to fight insurgents on its territory, citing a wish for the country to defend itself.
Their departure marks a new chapter in Burkina’s battle with Islamist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State, which have taken over large swathes of land and displaced millions of people in the wider Sahel region, just south of the Sahara.
In a statement, the General Staff of the Burkinabe Armed Forces said it had participated with the leadership of France’s Sabre special forces in “a solemn flag-lowering ceremony marking the official end of the Task Force’s operations on Burkinabe soil”.
The French armed forces ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
The departure of the some 400 French special forces from Burkina Faso follows a sharp deterioration in relations that included Ouagadougou asking France to recall its ambassador.
Last year, protests by opponents of the French military presence increased sharply, partly due to perceptions that France had not done enough to curb the insurgency.