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EU halts military training for Malian troops

A Swedish instructor watches as Malian soldiers practice arming their weapons, during an EU training session in the village of Koulikoro, 60 kilometers outside Bamako in 2013.   -  
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Baba Ahmed/AP


**The EU on Monday decided to halt its military training missions in Mali but will keep a presence in the Sahel, the bloc's top diplomat said on Monday.

The European Union missions will no longer train Malian armed forces and national guards. That’s what EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday. After chairing a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers, he cited recent developments in the Sahelian country to explain the move.

"There were not sufficient guarantees on non-interference by the Wagner group", Borell said.

Borrell said the "Wagner group... is responsible for some very serious events which have led to tens of people being killed in Mali in recent times". The diplomat was referring to reports that Malian soldiers and Wagner hired soldiers killed over 200 civilians in an operation last month in the Malian village of Moura. "We cannot collaborate with reprehensible events... We cannot be training people who are responsible for those kinds of behaviours", he added.

France and other countries claim Russian Wagner group is operating in Mali as an armed force; which Mali and Russia have denied.

The trainings provided by the EU were part of efforts aimed at strengthening Mali’s troops as they fight a Jihadjist insurgency. Starting in 2013, the European Union hired hundreds of instructors and experts who were involved in two training missions.

Despite the end in this instance of the EU-Mali military cooperation, Josep Borell said the Sahel remained a priority for the E.U.

Paris in February announced the withdrawal of its troops from Mali, after a breakdown in relations with the country's authorities.

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