Mali PM urge France to maintain military presence

Mali’s prime minister urged France Thursday to maintain a military presence in its former colony, as troops began an early withdrawal three months after ousting armed Islamists from the country’s north.

Diango Cissoko made the plea on a tour in Gao, the first visit to the battle-scarred northern city by a head of government since it was overrun by Al-Qaeda-linked militants more than a year ago.

The premier paid tribute to the French troops who intervened to liberate northern Mali from the armed militias in January.

“The Malian nation will be eternally grateful,” he said.

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