Burkina Faso marks end of French troops on its soil

STORY: France and Burkina Faso have officially marked the end of French military operations in the West African country, the Burkinabe armed forces said on Sunday (February 19).

The flag-lowering ceremony at a French special forces camp marks a new chapter in Burkina's battle with groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

They've taken over large swathes of land and displaced millions in the wider Sahel region, just south of the Sahara.

The departure of some 400 special forces follows a sharp deterioration in relations between Ouagadougou and Paris.

In January, Burkina Faso's junta, which seized power last year, gave France a month to withdraw its troops.

That followed a sharp increase in demonstrations by opponents of the French military presence.

Such protesters have been marking the anticipated departure in their own way.

This is footage of a French military convoy heading to Ouagadougou airport last week and being chased by shouts of "French army terrorist".

Over the past week, a small group of anti-French protesters has met each evening to watch out for signs of the withdrawal.

This is protest leader Amade Compaore.

"We are here to show our patriotism, to show our support to the transition, to show support to our army, to show support to Captain Ibrahim Traore, to say no to French imperialism, to say no to the French military."

Some of the demonstrators also held Russian flags.

That's a sign of the complicated political undercurrent shaping the region.

France withdrew its forces from Burkina Faso's neighbor Mali last year after the junta there started working with Russian mercenaries.

Ghana has accused Burkina Faso of also hiring Russia's Wagner Group.

That's prompted denials from the Burkinabe interim president.

French President Emmanuel Macron has described Russia's influence in troubled African countries as "predatory" as the sway held by his country, the former colonial power, has diminished.