Japan to shut Mali embassy over security fears

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan said today it would close its embassy in Mali because of the worsening security situation in the war-torn country.

"Japan will temporarily close the embassy in Mali due to the worsening security in the country, including in the capital of Bamako. The staff will continue the operation in the embassy in France," a foreign ministry statement said.

It said embassy staff would move out as soon as preparations were completed, probably around Jan 27.

The decision came a day after Japan announced that at least seven of its citizens were killed in a hostage crisis in neighbouring Algeria.

The kidnappers said they launched the attack in protest at Algeria's complicity in a French military campaign against Islamists in Mali.

The French-led offensive in Mali began early in the New Year, ten months after the government lost over half its territory to Islamists, amid rising fears that the vast north of the country could become a haven for Al-Qaeda.

France has said it could deploy upwards of 2,500 troops, which would eventually hand over control to a proposed African force.

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