COPENHAGEN, Jan 25 (Reuters) – Denmark said on Tuesday its troops deployed to Mali as part of a French-led counter-terrorism task force were there on the basis of a “clear invitation”, responding to the Malian transitional government’s continued demands for their immediate withdrawal.
The Danish government has reacted with puzzlement to Mali’s initial statement on Sunday, which said it had not been consulted about the deployment last week of about 90 personnel, including special forces and surgeons. read more
The European force, know as Takuba, was set up to help Mali and West African Sahel neighbours Burkina Faso and Niger tackle militants linked to the Islamic State and al Qaeda who have occupied swathes of territory in the area where their borders meet.
Speaking in Brussels, Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said Danish troops were in Mali on the basis of a clear invitation, “just like the other parties in the operation.”
Denmark’s foreign ministry said there was “considerable uncertainty about the transitional government’s announcement” and that it was in contact with Mali’s government.
France also rejected as “unfounded” Mali’s allegations and said it was discussing the situation with its European partners.
Addressing reporters after a meeting with the chair of the African Union Commission, Malian Prime Minister Choguel Maiga insisted the government had not been informed of the deployment.
“We don’t accept it. No one will come to Mali anymore by proxy,” Maiga said. “Why have they come? Is it because they are preparing something against the country?”
Denmark’s Kofod also criticised the alleged presence of Russian mercenaries in Mali, calling it “highly problematic”. Tensions have escalated in Mali over allegations that transitional authorities have deployed private military contractors from the Russia-backed Wagner Group, which some EU countries have said is incompatible with their mission.
There has also been discord between Mali and international partners, including regional bodies and the EU which have sanctioned Mali over the transitional government’s failure to organise elections following two military coups.
Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Tiemoko Diallo and John Irish; writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Tomasz Janowski