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Italy sends defence minister to Niger and Mali amid migrant worries

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The Italian Minister of Defense met with government officials and Italian military personnel in Mali and Niger to discuss strengthening Italy's position in a region riddled with challenges.

Lorenzo Guerini travelled to the West African nations on Wednesday and Thursday, where he talked about the threat of different terrorist groups, the illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons and humans often directed to Europe.

Guerini stressed the need for Italy to fight together with Europe to stabilise the region of Sahel.

He added that more needs to be done to support the area, not only in matters of security, but in economic and social development.

The Minister of Defense held a meeting with Mali's General Secretary of Defense in the capital Bamako on Wednesday.

Italian troops who are part of European Union and UN missions based in Bamako also met with Guerini and the Italian Ambassador to Mali Umberto De Vito.

On Thursday he met with Niger's Minister of Defense Alkassaoum Indatou.

Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali are battling the spread of deadly extremist violence from groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

The increasing violence has killed thousands of people and displaced hundreds of thousands despite the presence of regional and international troops.

In Niger, hundreds of civilians have already been killed this year.

In January, at least 100 people were killed in Niger's western villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye.

In March, a series of attacks on villages near Niger's troubled border with Mali left at least 137 people dead in the deadliest violence to strike the West African nation.