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Is there a secret French-Algerian-Malian immunity pact for militants in the Sahel?

G5 Sahel force
G5 Sahel force

France, Algeria and Mali have a agreement that will offer immunity militates in the Sahel region of northern Africa, in return for disarmament, Middle East Eye (MEE) reports.

Larbi Khelifa – also known as Abu Ayoub – the head of the al-Furqan cell of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) surrendered recently, according to an announcement by the Algerian army. The Army's statement appeared to confirm that, as a result, the suspected militants will be granted immunity from prosecution.

Moreover, MEE's reporting suggests some 40 militants have been granted similar deals in 2018, all in the border area of Tamanrasset, 2,000km south of Algiers.

Read: France's Macron says he has no 'plan B' for Iran nuclear deal

According to MEE's source, the surrender was "made possible thanks to a secret agreement signed in July 2017 between Algiers, Bamako and Paris … Terrorist groups operating in northern Mali are feeling enormous pressure due to all the African, Malian and French troops carrying out sweeping operations in the area,"

Yet on 20 April, 15 Islamists the Malian army killed some 15 militants in the Mopti region. According MEE's source:

"Three important conditions were set in this agreement: to allow Algerian investigators to communicate directly with fugitives in northern Mali; to open secure passageways in that area for 'penitents' to avoid them getting killed by French, Malian, or African forces; and finally, to establish real coordination to push for the surrender of armed Islamist leaders."

MEE's source confirmed that these leaders include, Yahya Abu al-Hammam, the second in command of Nusrat al-Islam, and former commander of AQIM in the Sahara, or Abd al-Rahman al-Sanhadji.

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