Aussies urged to fund Africa force

The Australian - - THE NATION - PRIMROSE RIOR­DAN

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

KYM SMITH

‘Ter­ror has no fron­tiers’: Mahamadou Issoufou at his ho­tel in Can­berra yes­ter­day

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