The Malian transitional government arrested 49 Ivorian soldiers on Sunday 10 July at Modibo Keita International Airport in Bamako. According to the statement read by the government spokesman on Monday, these soldiers are considered “mercenaries” because they arrived “illegally on the territory”. Thus their file will be “transmitted to the competent judicial authorities”, the statement said.
They are 31 soldiers of the special forces and 18 of the regular army; these 49 Ivorian soldiers arrested this Sunday in Bamako. Detained for two days by the Malian authorities for verification, these soldiers, whose “arms and ammunition” and military equipment were seized by the Malian government, are now considered “mercenaries”. Their real mission is still unknown, and their passports show them as students, drivers, masons, mechanics or painters, according to the Malian authorities. “In view of these failures and offences committed in the context of the deployment of these 49 Ivorian soldiers, the Transitional Government considers them to be mercenaries,” said government spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga in a statement broadcast on national television on Monday evening.
Moreover, according to the Malian government, the Ivorian authorities “were unaware of the presence of the Ivorian soldiers arrested in Mali”. Their interrogation gave four different versions of their missions in the country: confidential mission, soldiers of the UN mission in Mali (Minusma), protectors of the logistic base of the Sahelian Aviation Services company and protectors of the “German contingent”. As a result, “it has been established that the forty-nine Ivorian soldiers were illegally on the national territory of Mali (…) in possession of weapons and munitions of war, without a mission order or authorisation,” Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga said. The communiqué adds that “the fateful intention of those arrested was clearly to break the momentum of the rebuilding and securing of Mali, as well as the return to constitutional order”.
As a result, the Malian government has referred the matter to the competent courts because, it believes, these soldiers constitute a danger to the external security of the state and its territorial integrity.