French soldiers have started to withdraw from their bases in Niger, with the first convoy of troops escorted out of the country by Niger’s military as it travelled in the “direction of Chad”, authorities in the capital Niamey said.
Pick-up trucks and armoured personnel carriers laden with French soldiers drove through the dusty outskirts of Niamey on Tuesday, marking a departure demanded by Niger’s military rulers who seized power in July.
In a statement read on state television, Niger’s military called on citizens to cooperate with the troop movements, which it said would involve some of the 1,500 French soldiers leaving Niger by road to Chad, a journey of hundreds of kilometres through sometimes insecure territory.
The withdrawal of French forces was swiftly demanded by Niger’s new ruling generals after they took power on July 26, with French President Emmanuel Macron then confirming their departure at the end of September.
Approximately 1,000 French troops were stationed in Niamey, with another 400 deployed at two forward bases in the northwest, near Mali and Burkina Faso, a hotbed of rebel activity.