The EU is shutting down parts of a mission on which Irish troops have been serving for almost a decade.

Speaking to the media in Brussels today, Europe's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU had decided to halt certain military training missions in Mali but would keep a presence in the Sahel.

Mr Borrell, who is Europe's top diplomat, said: "We are halting some training missions for the (Malian) armed forces and national guard," but added: "The Sahel remains a priority. We're not giving up on the Sahel, far from it. We want to commit even more to that region."

The announcement comes after mounting concerns over the role of Russian mercenaries in Mali.

Mr Borrell said there were not enough security guarantees from the Malian authorities against interference from Russian paramilitaries.

A spokesperson for the Irish Defence Forces said it is currently committed to two multinational peace support operations in Mali - the EU Training Mission and the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA.

It said there has been a temporary suspension of tactical and operational training activities of EUTM Mali to the Malian Armed Forces and the Malian National Guard.

Other elements of the mission, including education and advisory activities will continue as will training of police forces.

Any decision to withdraw Irish soldiers from either mission is solely a matter for the Government, the Defence Forces said.

The NGO Human Rights Watch raised concerns over the deaths of around 300 civilians in the village of Moura in late March.

The NGO Human Rights Watch raised concerns over the deaths of around 300 civilians in the village of Moura in late March.

It said it had received credible reports of groups of men being summarily executed by armed Russians and Malian government troops.

The EU and UN called for an independent investigation into the alleged massacre.

The presence of the Wagner Group private military security company in Mali has been a cause of concern to the EU since they were invited to help fight Islamist militants by the country's ruling junta.

Ireland has provided troops to the EU's military training mission in Mali since 2013. They provide training to Malian recruits in bomb disposal, urban combat, anti-ambush tactics and human rights.

The presence of Russian mercenaries alongside - or in command of - Malian soldiers has given rise to concerns among EU governments.

Last Saturday on a visit to Mali, German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht questioned whether training soldiers was compatible with respect for human rights.

"We see that Malian soldiers are being trained in a tremendous way by highly motivated and skilled German soldiers, and then they go on missions with these capabilities, for example with Russian forces, even with mercenaries," the minister said.

"And the question then arises of whether this can be compatible with our values, especially if we then have to witness atrocities like in Moura," she said.