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Russian troops arrive at an airbase still occupied by US troops in Niger

Russian troops arrive at an airbase still occupied by US troops in Niger

WashingtonRussia has sent some troops to an air base in Niger, where a small number of US troops remain after most US troops left the base in the country’s capital, Niamey.

The visit of Russian instructors to the West African country three weeks ago followed a decision to order the withdrawal of all US troops from Niger. The order was a blow to US military operations in the Sahel, a vast region south of the Sahara desert where groups linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State group operate.

The Pentagon said U.S. troops would leave the country but did not provide a precise timetable.

When Russian troops arrived last month, it was unclear where they would be stationed. They are now on the other side of the Niamey facility, known as Air Base 101, and are not near US forces, a US official said. The base is next to the Diori Hamani International Airport, which is also home to other international forces such as German and Italian.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss troop movements. It is not clear how many US troops are at the Niamey base.

The Russian presence at the base comes at a time when tensions are high between Washington and Moscow over continued US support for Ukraine’s military forces.

About 1,000 US troops remain in Niger, but most of them have moved to what is known as Air Base 201, 920 kilometers (550 miles) from the capital, shortly after mutinous soldiers toppled the president in July last year.

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A few months later, the ruling junta asked French forces to leave the country and turned to the Russian mercenary group Wagner for security assistance.

In October, Washington formally declared the military intervention a coup, prompting US laws restricting military support and aid to Niger. Since then, diplomatic efforts to restore relations with Niger have failed.