Mali charges 49 Ivory Coast soldiers detained since July

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A Mali prosecutor says the 49 Ivory Coast soldiers held in Mali since July on accusations of being mercenaries have now been charged with undermining state security.

Mali’s prosecutor in the counterterrorism unit gave the update on the soldiers’ situation. Ivory Coast has been demanding the release of the soldiers since their detention on July 10.

The soldiers are charged with “criminal association, attack and conspiracy against the government, undermining the external security of the state, possession, carrying and transportation of weapons of war and complicity in these crimes,” the specialized prosecutor Samba Sissoko said in a statement released Sunday. “Investigations will be carried out in order to establish the truth, identify all possible perpetrators, co-perpetrators and accomplices.”

The Ivorian soldiers were detained upon their arrival in Mali at the airport in Bamako, the capital. They were sent to Mali to secure a building belonging to an airline company that was carrying out a contract with the German contingent of peacekeepers with the United Nations mission in Mali. However, Mali’s ruling junta considers the Ivorian soldiers to be “mercenaries” because they are not directly employed by the U.N. mission and therefore are not “national support elements.”

Tensions between Mali and Ivory Coast have increased since the soldiers were arrested.

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