Unity on ter­ror af­ter at­tacks

Joint force of 5 000 from five coun­tries to take on ji­hadists at a cost of $471m to make it oper­a­tional

African Independent - - NEWS -

MALI’S Pres­i­dent Ibrahim Boubacar Keita made a trip to Burk­ina Faso on Tues­day af­ter ter­ror at­tacks on both coun­tries, declar­ing the Sa­hel na­tions were united against ji­hadism.

Keita is cur­rent chair­man of the so-called G5 Sa­hel group – a coali­tion of five Western-backed Sa­ha­ran coun­tries that have pledged to fight ter­ror.

“The G5 Sa­hel is united in the face of ter­ror­ism,” Keita said in a state­ment to the press at the pres­i­den­tial palace in the cap­i­tal Oua­gadougou, along­side Burk­in­abe Pres­i­dent Roch Marc Chris­tian Ka­bore.

“We will not give up, they won’t scare us,” Keita said. “They will not suc­ceed in mak­ing us cower in our homes.”

On Sun­day, 18 peo­ple, in­clud­ing eight for­eign­ers, were shot dead in a Turk­ish restau­rant in Oua­gadougou in the lat­est at­tack in West Africa to tar­get a spot pop­u­lar with ex­pa­tri­ates. There has been no claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The restau­rant is 200m from a ho­tel and cafe tar­geted in an assault in Jan­uary last year that left 30 peo­ple dead and 71 wounded, many of them for­eign­ers.

That at­tack was claimed by al-Qaeda in the Is­lamic Maghreb.

On Mon­day, gun­men at­tacked two United Na­tions bases in Mali, killing a peace­keeper, a con­trac­tor and seven Malians.

A gun at­tack in the early morn­ing at a base in Douentza, in the cen­tral re­gion of Mopti, was fol­lowed within hours by a gu­nand-grenade assault on a camp in Tim­buktu in the north­west.

The “G5 Sa­hel” coali­tion gath­ers Burk­ina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mau­ri­ta­nia and Niger – coun­tries that have been badly hit by ji­hadist at­tacks but whose mil­i­tary re­sources are thin.

France is push­ing for the G5 to set up a joint force of 5 000 men, but the plan has met with wor­ries over fund­ing.

An es­ti­mated $471 mil­lion is re­quired to make it oper­a­tional.

Speak­ing be­fore the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, Mali’s am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, Issa Kon­fourou, said the at­tacks un­der­scored the ur­gency of set­ting up the force.

He said progress had been made since the joint force was for­mally con­sti­tuted early last month, but Mali called “on all friendly coun­tries and part­ner in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions to help us to com­plete the bud­get”.

The force is to be com­prised of troops from Niger, Chad, Mali, Mau­ri­ta­nia and Burk­ina Faso.

A Malian diplo­mat said equip­ment was needed for the force’s five bat­tal­ions. Also re­quired is a com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems link­ing them to head­quar­ters and a med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion unit.

Plans call for de­ploy­ing the first units in Oc­to­ber and for the bat­tal­ions to be oper­a­tional by March, with pri­or­ity placed on cross-bor­der mil­i­tary oper­a­tions.

Speak­ing at a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil de­bate on se­cu­rity in Africa, France’s deputy per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the United Na­tions Anne Gueguen stressed the need for an “ur­gent re­sponse” to armed ji­hadist groups desta­bil­is­ing the Sa­hel re­gion, the semi-arid re­gion in north cen­tral Africa that ex­tends from Sene­gal to Su­dan.

Her Amer­i­can coun­ter­part, Michele Si­son, said deeper co-op­er­a­tion be­tween the five par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries could help improve re­gional se­cu­rity and com­pli­ment the work of an ex­ist­ing UN peace­keep­ing force in Mali.

“The United States will con­tinue its long­stand­ing bi­lat­eral sup­port to de­velop and build the ca­pac­ity of G5 mem­bers’ se­cu­rity forces,” she said.– AFP


CALL TO ARMS: Malian Pres­i­dent Ibrahim Boubacar Keita at his palace in Ba­mako.

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