Nigeria says to begin Mali troop pullout on Wednesday

ABUJA Tue Jul 30, 2013 6:18pm EDT

Nigerian soldiers walk on the tarmac of the Bamako airport January 22, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Nigerian soldiers walk on the tarmac of the Bamako airport January 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Gaillard

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria will begin withdrawing some of its 1,200 troops in Mali on Wednesday and redeploy them in security operations at home, the military said on Tuesday.

Nigeria has been planning the withdrawal mainly due to the need for more soldiers to fight its own homegrown Islamist insurgency.

"The troops are mainly those not accommodated in the structures of the newly formed United Nations ... mission in Mail," Brigadier-General Chris Olukolade said in a statement. "They are to join the ongoing internal security operations."

He did not specify how many troops would be withdrawn, saying only that an "input of sizable men and materials (will) ... continue in the UN Mission," including a Nigeria-run military hospital.

Voters in Mali's presidential election turned out in large numbers peacefully on Sunday, eager for a fresh start after a March 2012 coup allowed separatist and al Qaeda-linked rebels to seize the desert north last year.

Vote counting has been disputed and the result is likely to cause tensions.

In mid-May, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency and launched an offensive against Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria. The insurgency remains active and has stretched Nigerian security forces.

Suspected Islamists killed 15 people in bomb blasts in the northern city of Kano on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Stacey Joyce)