U.N. soldiers Tuesday left a camp in the strategic town of Kidal in Mali's volatile north, which has been wracked by jihadist and separatist violence, several sources in the peacekeeping mission told AFP.
"We left Kidal this morning," a source in the U.N. peacekeeping mission based in the town said.
Following a coup in 2020, Mali's new military rulers in June ordered the peacekeepers out, proclaiming the "failure" of their mission.
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), whose strength has hovered around 15,000 soldiers and police officers, has seen 180 of its members killed.
The original plan was for the peacekeeping force to have withdrawn from the West African nation by the end of the year, but the UN troops began withdrawing from their compounds as early as July.
The U.N. peacekeeping force says it has had to destroy or decommission equipment such as vehicles, ammunition and generators that it was unable to take away, in accordance with UN rules.
The MINUSMA withdrawal has exacerbated rivalries between armed groups present in the north of the country and the Malian state.
These groups do not want the UN camps handed back to the Malian army, saying such a move would contravene ceasefire and peace deals struck with Bamako in 2014 and 2015.
However the army is pushing to take back control of the evacuated camps.
The predominantly Tuareg separatist groups who oppose the army have resumed hostilities against it.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM) has also stepped up attacks against the military.
That means that MINUSMA's pull-out is all the more perilous, taking place against the background of this renewal of hostilities -- and on what are perceived to be restrictions imposed by the authorities on its ability to maneuver.