Aussies urged to fund Africa force
Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou has called for Australia to contribute funds to a new multinational military force to tackle terrorists in Africa, warning Islamic State could find a new base on the continent.
A joint patrol of US and Niger troops was ambushed last week, leaving four US Green Berets and four Niger soldiers dead — the worst single loss since US President Donald Trump took office.
Islamist militant groups, some with links to al-Qa’ida, took over neighbouring Mali’s north for a short while in 2012. Further, Mr Issoufou said Islamic State’s loss- es in Syria and Iraq could drive the group further into Africa.
“After their defeat in Iraq and Syria parts of IS might want to settle in another region not only Sahel,” he told The Australian.
The Trump administration is under pressure over the loss of US military personnel, with Defence Secretary Jim Mattis insisting rescue forces were not slow to respond. The US has ordered a review of military training in Africa.
Mr Issoufou said ISIS was connected to the attack on the US troops, which he insisted was “a pursuit on Mali territory”.
“Our understanding is even if IS has not claimed responsibility, we think they are responsible for this attack.”
In December, donors and the G5 Sahel bloc — comprised of Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad — will meet to discuss funding a new force to beat back the scourge of terrorism in the region.
Mr Issoufou indicated he was keen for Australia to contribute. “It is true that finance is a question that needs to be raised, especially during the first year of its implementation. This force was approved by UN resolution,” he said. “All countries are welcome to participate in this conference, Australia included. And of course we wish Australia to provide its participation in this operationalisation of this joint force.”
“(Terror) has no frontiers, we are talking about a worldwide threat ... there is a need for an international response.”
He also flagged asking Australia for assistance in training their officials in counter terrorism.
Australia has a handful of mining companies in Niger, mostly focused on gold and uranium.
Mr Issoufou said the country was safe and open for investment and offered legal certainty and incentives.
He was working with Australia on a treaty to eliminate double taxation between the nations.
‘We are talking about a worldwide threat ... there is a need for an international response’ MAHAMADOU ISSOUFOU NIGER PRESIDENT
‘Terror has no frontiers’: Mahamadou Issoufou at his hotel in Canberra yesterday