EU freezes Mali training missions after military coup, denies responsibility
By Robin Emmott and Tiemoko Diallo
BRUSSELS/BAMAKO, Aug 26 (Reuters) - The European Union has suspended training in Mali after the military coup this month that removed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita from power, officials said on Wednesday, while Germany acknowledged that some perpetrators had been trained in Europe.
The two missions assisting Mali's army and police are part of international efforts to stabilise Mali and extend the state's authority, but the EU is facing questions about whether it inadvertently helped train the coup plotters.
"It is known that some of the leading figures of the coup d'etat have also enjoyed training in Germany and France," German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters in Berlin following a meeting with her EU counterparts.
However, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell insisted that the suspension of the EU's training missions was temporary. He also denied any EU responsibility for the Aug. 18 coup.
"We don't train armies to be putschists," Borrell told reporters, referring to those who attempt to overthrow a government.
"Ninety percent of the army has been trained by our mission, but the four most prominent (coup) leaders have not been trained by our mission."
Borrell did not give further details.
West African mediators and Mali's coup leaders are discussing the possibility of a transitional government, which could allow the EU to eventually resume training in partnership with the United Nations.
The coup has raised the prospects of further political turmoil in Mali which, like other countries in the region, is facing an expanding threat from Islamist militants.
The 88-member International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) suspended Mali on Tuesday. The group's secretary general Louise Mushikiwabo called for the release of Keita and other officials detained by the junta since Aug. 18.
Drawn up in late 2012 to help Mali's army regain control of the country after France drove out Islamists in the north, the EU military mission (EUTM Mali) has more than 600 soldiers from 28 European countries including EU and non-member states.
Its headquarters in Mali's capital Bamako was targeted by militants in 2016, although no personnel were hurt.
The EU agreed in 2014 an additional civilian mission (EUCAP Sahel Mali), sending experts to give advice and training to the internal security forces in Mali, the police, Gendarmerie and National Guard.
EU training will continue in neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso, officials said.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels and Tiemoko Diallo in Bamako; Editing by Hereward Holland and Lisa Shumaker)
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