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France begins next stage of troop withdrawal from Mali

French troops are withdrawing four months after arriving in Mali to push Islamist rebels out of the north.

France mali pullout Enlarge
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (R) climbs aboard his plane, on April 26, 2013 in Bamako. Le Drian's visit came shortly after the beginning of a phased withdrawal of the 4,500-strong French contingency which will see just 1,000 troops left in Mali by the end of the year. (Martin Bureau /AFP/Getty Images)

France has begun a key phase of withdrawing its forces from Mali, four months after troops arrived to push Islamic rebels out of the African country's north. 

Forces withdrew from a French base in the Malian capital of Bamako Saturday morning, the convoy of military vehicles reportedly headed for the Ivory Coast, BBC News reported.

They are expected to offer military advice to the Ivorian military before returning home to Paris, according to NationalTurk's African news desk

The 4,000 or so French soldiers began their initial pullout in April.

More from GlobalPost: France begins withdrawal of troops from Mali

Mali's army is gradually assuming their duties, and a United Nations peacekeeping force of around 11,200 soldiers and 1,440 police officers will arrive in July, right before the country's national elections. 

France deployed troops to Mali in January 2013, after Islamic militants began encroaching on Bamako and major towns like Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu.

They successfully battled back the rebels, but there are still isolated attacks being launched from the mountains and desert. 

The most recent attack came just two days ago in neighboring Niger: militants targeted army barracks and a French-run uranium mine, killing 21 people, according to the BBC. 

Most of France's heavy patrol vehicles and tanks will remain in the country's north, and a group of around 1,000 soldiers will remain until the end of this year. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/130525/france-begins-key-stage-troop-withdrawal-mali