PARIS (AFP) – The camel that grateful townsfolk in Mali presented to President Francois Hollande for sending in French troops to chase away Islamist extremists has likely been eaten by the family that was supposed to be looking after it in Timbuktu.
French defence officials said they were informed of the beast’s ignominious demise during a visit to the war-torn African state last month, while Valeurs Actuelles magazine reported that the defence minister broke the bad news to the president during a recent cabinet meeting.
The camel caused Hollande some embarrassment when it was presented to him on February 3 in Timbuktu, which French troops had recently freed from the grip of Al-Qaeda-linked militants.
The animal bleated and shied away as he tried to caress it. “I shall use it as much a I can as a means of transport,” he quipped.
French officials originally planned to bring the beast back to France and place it in a zoo, but it was later decided to entrust it to a local family.
Paris sent its troops to Mali in January to block a feared advance on the capital Bamako from the north by Islamist fighters.