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West African leaders to set up anti-extremist force

West African leaders to set up anti-extremist force


West African leaders plan to set up a force to combat extremists in the region and send an observation mission to Gambia before the country’s elections.

The decisions were recently announced at the 49th session of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting of heads of state held in Dakar, Senegal.

Member states also discussed the creation of a regional force.

Threat of extremists in the region has increased in recent times following major attacks by al-Qaeda-linked militants in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.

The Nigeria-based Boko Haram, which has declared support for the Islamist State group continues to carry out attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

Senegalese president and the out-gone chairman of the group, Macky Sall said resources must be combined.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was chosen Saturday to replace Sall.

The regional body also agreed to send a technical mission to Gambia ahead of December elections. It called for a free and credible vote and dialogue with the opposition.

The conference urged the security forces to avoid excessive use of force against citizens.

Gambian activists and politicians have called on ECOWAS to take action against Gambia for its recent brutal crackdown on rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Dozens of people, including opposition leaders have been arrested during recent demonstrations.

According to the human rights group, Amnesty International, a leader had died from torture while in detention.