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France, Sahel nations discuss regional insurgency

French president convenes meeting with leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania, Chad to discuss insurgency

Cindi Cook   | 13.01.2020
France, Sahel nations discuss regional insurgency

PARIS

As tensions mount in the Sahel region of Western Africa, France called a meeting on Monday with five countries in the region.

Convening the meeting in the southwestern French city of Pau, President Emmanuel Macron sought support from the leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania and Chad against an increasing insurgency linked to the Al Qaeda and ISIS/Daesh terror groups.

The heads of the UN, African Union and EU Council joined Macron in the six-way talks.

Recent tensions between France and governments in the region have escalated over the past few months, as have local calls for France to leave the region.

During that time, the insurgency has killed thousands of civilians and displaced more than a million others. Dozens of French soldiers and hundreds of troops from regional countries were also killed. In a statement early in January, UN chief Antonio Guterres warned that "terrorist groups are gaining ground."

The Sahel is a zone between the Sahara Desert to the north and the Sudanese Savanna to the south, comprising of 13 countries including Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Cameroon, Niger and Mauritania among others.

Urging leaders to show public support for the French military presence in the region -- 4,500 soldiers total -- Macron called for support from Western nations.

The UN has installed a force of 13,000 peacekeepers in Mali as part of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA).

The conflict began in 2012 in northern Mali and has since spread to its neighbors, especially Burkina Faso and Niger.

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