December 13, 2017 (AP)(STL.NEWS) — LA CELLE-SAINT-CLOUD, France (AP) — The Latest on a summit in France on a new African military force to counter jihadis in the Sahel (all times local):
Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is warning against the possibility of Islamic State group fighters fleeing to Africa’s Sahel Region following military defeats in Syria.
During a news conference in Paris, Keita says “we realize that, with everything that has happened in the Middle East and the end of the war in Syria, there will be a reflux toward us.”
Keita spoke at a gathering of European and African leaders to boost a newly created African counter-terror force known as the G5 Sahel.
Keita says African leaders don’t want to see IS fighters “take root” in their region.
French President Emmanuel Macron says France’s 4,000-strong counterterrorism force in Africa’s Sahel region will work with a new African force to “win victories” against jihadist extremists “in the first half of 2018.”
During a summit gathering African and European leaders west of Paris, Macron said “we must win the war against terrorism” in the Sahel region following the military victories against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Leaders of the five countries participating in the G5 Sahel force — Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad — attended Wednesday’s summit.
Macron stressed France’s Barkhane force will help the G5 force and “we will win victories in the first half of 2018.”
Macron says the African military force will reach 5,000 soldiers next year as planned.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that making a young counter-terrorism force operational on the ground to combat Islamic jihadis in the Sahel region of Africa is urgent.
Merkel attended a conference in France on Wednesday that was designed to breathe life into the G5 Sahel force, a joint army of five Sahel nations.
She says leaders at the meeting heard the “urgency” of the situation from their African counterparts.
Merkel said: “Islamic extremism is propagating. We can’t wait.”
Extremist attacks, often centered on the borders between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, are mounting, with U.N. peacekeepers and security officials increasingly targeted.
Merkel said development aid that Germany and other countries provide “is useless if people can’t live in peace.” She evoked the ongoing peace process in Mali as an example of work that needs to move forward.
French President Emmanuel Macron says Saudi Arabia has pledged to provide $100 million and the UAE $30 million to fight the jihadi threat in Africa’s Sahel region.
The French Defense Ministry says the five countries participating in a fledgling G5 Sahel force is to grow to a 5,000-strong army by March, but still needs soldiers, training, operational autonomy and funding.
The French president says the nations — Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad — must step up their efforts during the first half of 2018, especially by pledging more soldiers.
Macron held a summit with African and European leaders outside Paris on Wednesday to discuss the threat in the Sahel region.
He says the United States has confirmed a pledge of $60 million for the five-nation force, known as G5 Sahel.
Officials participating in a summit in France say an anti-terror military force in the Sahel region of Africa is to grow to a 5,000-strong army by March but is still in need of soldiers, training, operational autonomy and funding.
The budget to launch the force is 250 million euros ($293 million), with 400 million euros ($470 million) needed down the road, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said on RFI radio.
The G5 Sahel force will at first concentrate on the border regions shared by Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. A test operation in November was carried out by 350 forces from Burkina Faso, 200 from Niger and 200 from Mali, according to the French Defense Ministry.
In recent months, security forces and the U.N. peacekeeping mission have been prime jihadi targets in the Sahel.
The fledging G5 Sahel force is made up of soldiers from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad.
Presidents, princes and diplomats are meeting outside Paris to breathe life into a young African military force that aims to counter the growing jihadi threat in the Sahel region.
Nearly five years after France intervened to rout Islamist extremists in northern Mali, then controlled by an al-Qaida affiliate, the threat has spread to neighboring countries in the volatile region. It has also spawned new jihadi groups, including one that claims affiliation with the Islamic State group, recently defeated in Iraq and nearly pummeled in Syria.
French President Emmanuel Macron convened leaders of the five-nation force, known as G5 Sahel, and delegations representing Europe, the African Union and international organizations at a chateau west of Paris. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among those attending, as well as envoys from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
By The Associated Press, published on STL.NEWS by St. Louis Media, LLC (PS)
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