PARIS 

Despite a coup earlier this week in the West African nation, France will continue its operation against terrorist militants in Mali’s Sahel region, said the French defense minister on Thursday.

“Operation Barkhane, requested by the Malians and authorized by the UN Security Council, continues,” said Florence Parly on Twitter.

“French soldiers, in conjunction with European and Sahelian partners, continue to carry out their mission with professionalism, for the benefit of everyone’s security.”

Mali saw a coup on Tuesday when armed forces arrested both President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse, forcing the ouster of Keita, who has since resigned.

Army Col. Assimi Goita on Thursday declared himself president of the army’s junta.

UN Security Council, European Union, African Union, and US, have condemned the coup and demanded the release of both Keita and Cisse.

On Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “In Mali, power must be returned to civilians and milestones must be laid for the return to constitutional order. President Keita, his prime minister and members of the government must be released without delay and their safety guaranteed.”

The coup follows months of chaos with protests countrywide. Goita is rumored to be the driving force behind the coup.

In Mali, France has carried out Operation Serval since January 2013, followed by Operation Barkhane in the Sahel – the northern part of Africa where Mali lies – since Aug. 1, 2014.

Some 5,000 troops are installed in the region as part of France’s military effort there, stationed in Chad’s capital N’Djamina. They have carried out operations with the cooperation of the G5 Sahel, the five West African countries of Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Mali.

The region has seen a significant terrorist threat in recent years, with Boko Haram and the militant group al-Queda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) maintaining a presence there as well as in neighboring countries.

Six French nationals were killed in the Sahel last Monday by a terrorist ambush near the capital of Niger. Twenty civilians total have been killed in the area this May.

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