Disgruntled Mali soldiers desert posts demanding bonus

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A group of Malian troops briefly abandoned their posts this week and fired shots in the air to demand a deployment bonus, soldiers and officials said Sunday.

‘Several dozen Malian soldiers positioned in Diabaly with the forces from Burkina Faso deserted their posts on Thursday and Friday,’ a local official told AFP.

‘They pulled back to Segou to demand their deployment bonus and fired shots in the air,’ he said on condition of anonymity.

‘Our bonus is a right. That's why we left our positions. Now the issue has been sorted and we are back in Diabaly,’ said one soldier involved in the protest.

A senior army official based in the larger city of Segou said the situation was back to normal in Diabaly and added that some of the ring leaders were punished.

France launched a military operation on January 11 to prevent Al Qaeda-linked groups that had occupied northern Mali for nine months from pushing south and threatening the capital Bamako.

Days later, Islamist fighters were retreating on several fronts but made surprise foray into government-controlled territory to briefly capture Diabaly, which lies 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Bamako.

The Malian army has been in disarray since a renegade captain carried out a coup in March 2012, ostensibly to protest against the military's failure to stop the Islamist takeover of the north.

Bamako faces the daunting task of securing enough funds to pay and train its soldiers, who are expected to take over from French and African forces when the last pockets of diehard jihadists have been flushed out.

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