African forces began a U.S.-led counter-terrorism training programme in Senegal, amid what a U.S. commander said were rising signs of collaboration between Islamist militant groups across north Africa and the Sahel.
The annual “Flintlock” exercises started only weeks after an attack in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou left at least 30 people dead.Senegalese Commander Colonel Antonie Diouf said the collaboration with Western forces was “beneficial” to local troops.
The reemergence of AQIM and other militant groups in the region has left African and Western powers concerned.
At the request of African partners, the exercises will also include anti-Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) training.
The Islamic State has thousands of fighters in the former Italian colony and controls parts of Libya’s northern coastal strip, including the city of Sirte.
Flintlock, an annual event since 2005, which improves interoperability and cooperation among regional and international security forces to combat terrorism across borders will run until February 29. More than 1,700 military personnel are expected to take part across Senegal and neighbouring Mauritania.
Senegal, which has a reputation for stability in an otherwise turbulent region, has been on alert over fears an Islamist insurgency is spreading in the region.