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UN Peacekeeping Troop Rotations to Resume in Mali

FILE - A convoy of peace keeping forces stand next to an electoral billboard of Soumaila Cisse, leader of URD (Union for the Republic and Democracy) opposition party during a patrol in Bamako, Mali, Aug. 9, 2018.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, is to resume contingent rotations starting Monday under fresh approval procedures, the Malian foreign minister and a U.N. spokeswoman have said.

"MINUSMA agreed to the new procedures and communicated them to all countries contributing troops. There will be no exception," Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said Saturday, after the Sahel state suspended the rotations last month for "national security" reasons.

The peacekeeping force's spokeswoman Myriam Dessables confirmed the news and said: "Rotations are to resume from Monday."

The announcement came after Germany said Friday it had stopped reconnaissance operations and helicopter transport flights in Mali until further notice after Bamako denied flyover rights to MINUSMA.

Those rights were refused despite assurances to the contrary from the Malian Defense Minister Sadio Camara in a call with his German counterpart Christine Lambrecht Thursday, the German defense ministry spokesman said.

Diop said the various contingents previously had to seek approval directly from the Malian authorities.

But now "all requests must go via MINUSMA, who will then pass them on to the foreign ministry," the minister said.

The July 14 suspension of rotations came four days after Mali arrested 49 Ivorian soldiers it later described as mercenaries intent on toppling the country's military-led government.

Ivory Coast said the troops had been sent to provide backup to MINUSMA.

The peacekeeping mission acknowledged there had been what it called dysfunctions in deploying the Ivorian troops.

Former MINUSMA spokesman Olivier Salgado was expelled from the country for publishing what the authorities deemed unacceptable information on Twitter following the arrest.

MINUSMA, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, was launched in 2013 to help one of the world's poorest countries cope with a bloody jihadi campaign.

It is one of the U.N.'s biggest peacekeeping operations, with 17,609 troops, police, civilians and volunteers deployed as of April, according to the mission's website.

Mali has been ruled by a military junta since 2020.

The junta has turned away from France and toward Russia in its fight against the jihadi insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

France is pulling out the last of its military equipment from the country.

On Saturday, residents in the southeastern Menaka region said Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) jihadis had attacked the Assaylal district, "killing seven civilians and taking with off their cattle."

It comes after a suspected jihadi attack in the town of Tessit, near the borders with Niger and Burkina Faso, killed 42 Malian soldiers on Sunday last week. The army blamed ISGS.