Europe

Germany worried about Mali plan for Russian mercenaries

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BERLIN, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Germany joined France on Wednesday in expressing concern about an agreement between Mali's military rulers and a Russian security company that would bring Russian mercenaries into the African country.

Diplomatic and security sources have told Reuters that mercenaries hired by the Wagner Group would train the Malian military and provide protection for senior officials. The deal is close to being agreed on, they said,

"We find this extremely worrying," a German foreign ministry spokesperson said.

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France's foreign minister on Tuesday criticised the plans, saying such a move was "incompatible" with the French military presence in its former colony.

France is worried the arrival of Russian mercenaries would undermine its decade-old counter-terrorism operation against al Qaeda and Islamic State-linked insurgents in the Sahel region of West Africa just as it begins to scale down its 5,000-strong mission there and reshape it with more European allies, the diplomatic sources said.

A spokesperson for the German defence ministry said the issue would be discussed with European and international partners and, if necessary, consequences would be discussed.

Asked about a possible halt to cooperation with the junta government in Mali, which seized power in a coup in May, the spokesperson said only that the German armed forces were active in Mali on the basis of two foreign deployment mandates.

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Reporting by Adnreas Rinke, Writing by Emma Thomasson and Angus MacSwan

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