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Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso to Launch Anti-Jihadist Force

Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali have agreed to set up a joint force to tackle security threats across their territories.

Moussa Salaou Barmou, the head of Niger’s armed forces, announced the new force after a meeting with his counterparts, the junta leaders of Mali and Burkina Faso, on Wednesday.

In a televised statement, Barmou said the task force would be “operational as soon as possible to meet security challenges”, but did not give details on the size or remit of the force.

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“We are convinced that, with the combined efforts of our three countries, we will manage to create the conditions for shared security,” he added.

Insurmountable insurgency

A decade-long fight led by Islamist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State has fuelled violence in the region, which worsened after the three countries’ militaries seized power in a series of coups from 2020 to 2023.

The latest coup took place in Niger in July 2023, followed by the exit of all three countries from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

Conflict fatalities in the central Sahel rose by 38 percent in 2023 from the previous year, according to the US-based crisis monitoring group Acled, which cited reports of more than 8,000 people killed in Burkina Faso alone.

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Last week, some 170 people were executed in one day in attacks on three villages in northern Burkina Faso, followed by more violence.

France ‘at fault’

Many in Mali, Burkina Faso, and more recently in Niger, have blamed the French mission in the region for failing to shut down the Islamist insurgency while diminishing the countries’ sovereignty.

“France has lost its diplomatic and military place in the Sahel for sure,” Babacar Ndiaye, a senior fellow at the Timbuktu Institute in Senegal, told RFI.

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