French military convoy leaving Burkina Faso after protester blockade

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore before a meeting over security in the Sahel region at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, November 12, 2021
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PARIS (Reuters) - A French military convoy blocked in Burkina Faso was crossing into Niger on Friday, France's army said, a week after protesters opposed to the former colonial ruler's military presence halted its passage.

Hundreds of demonstrators in the city of Kaya last week surrounded the logistics trucks and armoured vehicles as they traversed Burkina Faso on their way to Niger and then Mali.

The convoy, which had already been met with protests in two other cities along the route, then retreated to a camp just north of the capital Ouagadougou.

"The convoy resumed its trajectory last evening and is now arriving at the Niger border. Everything is going well," French army spokesperson Colonel Pascal Ianni told Reuters.

People in the West African country are frustrated with local and international troops for failing to contain an expanding Islamist insurgency. France has thousands of troops deployed across West Africa's Sahel region, where they fight militants linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda.

State security forces suffered their heaviest loss in years earlier this month when militants from an al Qaeda affiliate killed 49 military police officers and four civilians.

Three others died in a similar attack on Wednesday, and hundreds of civilians have been killed over the course of the year.

Facing growing criticism and opposition calls for renewed protests on Saturday, President Roch Kabore vowed in a televised address late on Thursday to address "unacceptable dysfunction" in the army.

Schools have been shut across the country in anticipation of possible unrest. Mobile internet has also been cut since last Saturday under a legal provision related to national defence and public security.

(Reporting by John Irish; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Aaron Ross, William Maclean)

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