(Reuters) – The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, is poised to complete its withdrawal from the country on Sunday, the United Nations said in a statement.
Security experts warn the area could now become the focus of a struggle in the north as rebel groups and the army seek to take areas that the U.N. has left, further destabilising Mali, where Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State also roam.
Violence in Mali has spiked since June when the military junta which took power in a 2021 coup ordered the U.N.’s decade-old peacekeeping mission to leave.
The U.N. said only a small team will stay behind to oversee the transportation of assets and disposal of U.N.-owned equipment.
“U.N. funds, agencies and programmes were in Mali well before the deployment of MINUSMA and will stay in Mali well after the withdrawal,” MINUSMA chief El-Ghassum Wane said.
The peacekeeping mission in Mali was launched in 2013 following a violent insurrection by separatist rebels attempting to take control of the north of the country and a subsequent military-led coup.
Mali has since become the epicentre of a violent movement that has spread across West Africa and forced millions to flee.
(Reporting by Nilutpal Timsina in Bengaluru; Editing by Alison Williams and Hugh Lawson)