Mali’s military rulers took delivery on Thursday of more aircraft from Russia, now its main military and political ally, as well as drones from Turkey, according to an AFP correspondent.
Mali’s air force chief, General Alou Boi Diarra, said he had received around 20 aircraft and a dozen drones at a ceremony attended by the head of the country’s junta, Colonel Assimi Goita, as well as Russian and Turkish diplomats.
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AFP counted five planes and four drones on the tarmac of Bamako airport.
Le Président de la Transition, SE le Colonel @GoitaAssimi, Chef de l’État, Chef Suprême des Armées, a présidé, ce jeudi, la cérémonie de remise officielle d’aéronefs militaires, au Pavillon présidentiel de l’aéroport international Président Modibo KEÏTA. pic.twitter.com/xxL3i9xn1I— Presidence Mali (@PresidenceMali) March 16, 2023
It was the latest in a series of similar Russian deliveries of military equipment, following others in January and in March and August last year.
Thursday’s delivery included more Czech-designed Albatros L-39s jets, like those delivered in January. While initially designed for training purposes, they have also been used as attack aircraft.
The drones were Turkish Bayraktar-TB2s, which are capable of reconnaissance and surveillance missions. Their observations can help make artillery and air strikes more accurate, said Mali’s defense minister, Colonel Sadio Camara.
The west African country has been fighting an extremist insurgency since 2012 as well as a political and humanitarian crisis.
After the army leaders currently in power staged their 2020 coup, relations with former colonial power France quickly broke down, and Russia stepped in to fill the void.
Multiple sources say the junta started bringing in paramilitaries from the Russian group Wagner from late 2021, provoking criticism from several countries.
While the regime says it has now begun taking the fight to the extremists, some experts dispute that claim.
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