The heads of the G5 Sahel countries on Sunday called for closer cooperation and international support to defeat militants after a recent attack on Niger’s army.
The leaders of Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Mauritania met at an emergency meeting on the security situation in Niger’s capital Niamey following last Tuesday’s attack on a military camp in Inates near the border with Mali which left 71 Niger soldiers dead.
“These endless attacks carried out by terrorist groups in our region remind us not only of the gravity of the situation but also the urgency for us to work more closely together,” said Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore.
Kabore, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the regional G5 group, stressed the need to preserve peace and stability, which he said are guarantors of sustainable development of any country, according to the Niamey.com news website.
Underscoring the need for international support, Kabore reiterated the commitment of the G5 countries to combating terrorism in all its forms with all means.
Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, the host of the summit, noted that the attacks were aimed not just at military targets but increasingly civilian populations.
The terrorist threat against the Sahel countries is “getting worse,” he said.
Earlier, Kabore, along with Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, gathered at the cemetery at Niamey Air Base 101 to pay homage to the slain soldiers.
A Daesh/ISIS affiliate group in West Africa claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) claimed to have killed more than 100 soldiers, taken 16 vehicles and set the camp on fire before leaving.
The attack took place in the village of Inates near the border with Mali, where fighters linked to the Daesh/ISIS terror group have long been active.
Niger observed three days of national mourning from Friday to Sunday, during which all sports and cultural competitions were put on hold.
Niger is part of the five-nation task force known as the G5 -- established in 2014 with Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Chad in the wake of militant attacks.
After Tuesday’s attack, French President Emmanuel Macron was forced to postpone until next year a meeting with five presidents from the Sahel which had been scheduled this week in the southwestern French town of Pau to discuss security in the region.
The Sahel region, the arid area on the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert, has witnessed unprecedented levels of violence since 2015, with militant groups seeking to extend their influence across West Africa.
Between November 2018 and March 2019, the rise in civilian victims varied from 300% up to 7,000% in some Sahel countries compared to the same period in the previous year, according to figures by Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita released at the 10th Ministerial Meeting of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum held in New York on Sept. 25.
The statistics show that in the first six months of this year, more than 200 terrorist attacks occurred on the continent, resulting in over 5,000 security and civilian victims.
Analysts attribute the proliferation of terrorist groups in the Sahel region to infighting between the different warlords but also religious extremism, perceived invasion and control of territory.
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