Troops from five Sahel countries are planning to set up a joint counter-terrorism force in the region to tackle jihadist threats.
The announcement came as leaders of the Sahel G5 states – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – met in Mali’s capital Bamako Monday, to discuss the desert zone’s perilous security situation.
The gathering took place barely three weeks after a suicide bomb attack left almost 80 people dead on January 18 in the northern Malian city of Gao.
The President of Chad Idriss Deby said: “As we all know, as long as the Libyan chaos lasts, security in the Sahel and the Sahara will always be strained. As the current president of the Sahel G5, I invite all member states to invest in security to help our Libyan brothers in the process of reconciliation and search for peace.”
The Chadian leader also said European nations would be asked to fund the transnational project. There was however no word on the number of troops the force would have or where they would be stationed.
But the President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou said a United Nations resolution and Security Council approval would be requested before the force could be formed.
The Chadian leader had said earlier in the day that the Sahel region risked becoming “a space for terrorists” unless immediate, co-ordinated action was taken, sources report.
“We need to co-ordinate our efforts to rise up to the challenge,” said Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, whose nation is struggling with jihadists who use its vast northern stretches as a launchpad for attacks.