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EU forces have started training Malian soldiers to quell an Islamist insurgency in the former French colony.

150 European instructors will train troops from Mali’s army at a base some 60 kilometres from the capital, Bamako.

France led an intervention in January to free the country’s north from Islamist fighters.

Mali’s foreign minister Tieman Coulibaly said the EU training would be key in allowing France to withdraw its troops from the country.

France can’t stay in Mali forever, he said.

EU officers expect to have the first-fully trained Malian troops in action by July of this year.

Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb seized control of northen Mali after a coup in March 2012.

They imposed a strict form of Islamic law in the area.

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