Mali's interim prime minister has accused France of using its military mission there against Islamist militants to divide the African country.
Speaking to diplomats late Monday, Interim Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga said Mali would always be grateful to French soldiers who died in the fight against Islamist militants. But he added that the French mission to help Mali was aiding the terrorists.
He said the French people, some who have children who have died in Mali, don’t know that it was their government that cut Mali in two.
"France created a sanctuary for terrorists to regroup and reorganize for two years, so that they could come back and invade our country," he said.
Maiga has in the past accused the French military of training terrorists and supporting Tuareg separatists when the French intervention began in 2013. He has not offered evidence to back up those accusations or those made during his speech Monday. There was no immediate reaction from the French government or the embassy in Bamako.
A French military operation known as Serval helped take back northern Mali from Islamist militants.
The operation ran from 2013 until 2014 when it was replaced by Operation Barkhane, an ongoing anti-insurgent mission.
Barkhane last year began drawing down troops from northern Mali military bases.
Europe says Mali has contracted Russian mercenaries, which the Malian government claims are just military trainers.
Maiga on Monday also accused the European Takuba Task Force sent to help Mali fight insurgents of being created to divide the country.
In January, a Danish contingent of Takuba that had just arrived in Mali was asked to leave.
Paris is evaluating its military presence in Mali after Bamako last week expelled the French ambassador after France's foreign affairs minister sharply criticized the military government.
Tensions between Mali and France have been rising since Paris backed West African sanctions for the military delaying elections.
Mali has had two coups since 2020. The military government pulled back from an agreement to hold elections in February, saying the vote would instead take place in 2026.