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The head of the French armed forces has lambasted a UN report which indicted his troops in the killing of 19 civilians in an airstrike on a wedding in Mali.
In an interview with the French newspaper, Le Figaro Gen François Lecointre is quoted as saying the report had errors and bias and was designed to turn the local population against France.
France has 5,100 troops across the Sahel region.
They are fighting militants tied to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
Gen Lecointre also said in the interview with Le Figaro that he believed Europe would still be fighting Islamist extremism in the Sahel in 10 years’ time, and European forces would be more deeply involved than they are now.
Without such engagement, the Sahel would become a ‘zone of chaos’ with destabilising illegal migration to Europe ‘out of control’, he said
In the interview, Gen Francois Lecointre described as ‘erroneous and biased’ the recent United Nations report blaming his troops for killing civilians at the January wedding.
The UN investigation found that there were about 100 civilians at the site of the strike and five were armed people, thought to be members of a jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaeda.
‘The group affected by the strike was overwhelmingly composed of civilians who are protected persons under international humanitarian law,’ the UN said.
However, Gen Lecointre said the report was an attack on the legitimacy of French military presence in the region.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK