Sahel leaders seek UN help against jihadist attacks

Five nations waging a battle against jihadi fighters in the Sahel asked the UN on Tuesday for money and other aid to help tackle a scourge which claimed more lives even as officials met.

Leaders of the so-called G5 Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger – gathered in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou seeking to beef up the battle against jihadists who have killed hundreds of civilians and inflicted crippling economic damage.

In the latest incident, five security personnel were killed on Tuesday in a what the army called a “terrorist” attack in northern Burkina Faso.

“A military detachment from forces ensuring security in the north at Oursi, in the Sahel were attacked by terrorists,” the army said in a statement.

“Five gendarmes were killed and three injured, including two seriously,” it said, shortly after another similar attack Monday left 14 civilians dead.

In a statement issued at the close of a one-day meeting, the G5 renewed their “concern” over the situation, and called for “closer cooperation between the G5 Sahel and the United Nations”.

This should include assistance to a joint G5 military force under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which can authorise measures to help a country “which finds itself confronted with special economic problems” arising from “prevention and enforcement measures” aimed at safeguarding peace, they said.

The five countries are among the world’s poorest.

The radical Islamist revolt in the Sahel took off after chaos engulfed Libya in 2011. Jihadist attacks erupted in northern Mali as Boko Haram arose in northern Nigeria.

As the toll spiked, a French-backed scheme was launched in 2014 with the goal of deploying a 5 000-man joint force among the five nations in the front line.

But lack of funding and training, as well as poor equipment, have greatly undermined the initiative, and last June, the force’s headquarters in Mali were hit by a devastating suicide attack claimed by an al-Qaeda-linked group.

Mahamadou Issoufou, president of Niger, told reporters at Tuesday’s meeting there was a need to find “a permanent mechanism to finance” an anti-jihadist force under the UN Charter’s Chapter 7.

The G5, he added, “reaffirmed its determination and its willingness to continue the fight against terrorism with all means necessary: militarily, economically — because poverty is the fertile ground in which terrorism thrives – and also ideologically”.

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