Ivory Coast lashes Mali ‘blackmail’ over detained troops

By Africanews

Colonel Assimi Goïta (R) looks on after laying a wreath on the monument to the dead, during the ceremony celebrating the national day of the army, in Kati, on January 20, 2022 –

Ivory Coast on Wednesday accused Mali of “blackmail” over 46 Ivorian troops who have been detained by Bamako and called for West African leaders to discuss the crisis as soon as possible.

Mali’s ruling junta last week tied the troops’ release to the extradition of Malians living in Ivory Coast — a condition that amounts to “unacceptable blackmail,” the government’s National Security Council said in a statement.

It reiterated a call for the soldiers’ “immediate release” and urged a meeting of leaders of the regional bloc ECOWAS “as soon as possible.”

“The latest developments… are liable to harm peace and security in the sub-region,” said the council, which is headed by President Alassane Ouattara.

The two countries have been locked in a diplomatic tug-of-war since July 10, when the Malian authorities arrested 49 troops who had arrived at Bamako airport.

The junta-led government said the troops had had no orders or supporting documents and described them as “mercenaries”.

In August, the soldiers were charged with “attempted harm to external state security” and formally placed in custody.

Ivory Coast says the troops were simply on a routine rotation for personnel who provide back-up services for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.

Three women soldiers in the group were released in early September — a move that Ivory Coast welcomed as a good sign.

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