Some West African countries have agreed to form an anti-terrorism force to jointly fight jihadist militants in the Sahel region.
“The G5 Sahel joint force will intervene in northern Mali in particular and in the Sahel, to carry out a fierce fight against the various terrorist groups that operate in the Sahel zone,” Malian President Ibarahim Boubacar Keita, who was appointed leader of the G5 Sahel, said Tuesday on national radio.
Mali, Niger, Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso decided to set up the G5 Sahel counter-terrorism unit during a summit in Mali’s capital, Bamako, late on Monday.
The G5 Sahel leaders said they will request authorisation from the UN Security Council to “immediately” activate the joint force, which is meant to collaborate tightly with the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
“If we do not act quickly and vigorously in proportion to the dimension of the threat, our region will inevitably become a terrorist sanctuary,” said Chadian President Idriss Deby.
NAN reports that in July 2016, the UN Security Council beefed up peacekeeping operations in Mali, in light of attacks.
The mission’s force increased by 2,500, bringing the total to 13,300 troops and just under 2,000 police.
Jihadist groups, which have attacked numerous sites in northern Mali, are extending their reach farther south, even hitting a hotel in Bamako last November.
It is a challenge considered unprecedented in the U.N.’s history.
Since deployment in 2013, 68 UN peacekeepers have been killed in Mali.