Posts Tagged ‘Mali’

French police clear out 1,000 migrants, bulldoze Paris tent camp

May 30, 2018

Police on Wednesday cleared out about 1,000 people from the largest makeshift migrant camp in the French capital, which became a focal point in France’s immigration debate.

The mainly African migrants were moved out of their tent camp along a canal used by joggers and cyclists on Paris’ northeast edge, put in buses and taken to gymnasiums in the region as bulldozers ripped out the tents. Several hundred migrants apparently fled before the evacuation.

Police have evacuated the largest illegal refugee camp in Paris

Two migrants drowned this month in canals along encampments and others have been injured amid rising tensions in the filthy, crowded camps, adding pressure for authorities to act. But the evacuation was delayed for months amid bickering over what to do with the migrants.

“To stay one month here is very, very, very bad for me. All the people have sicknesses and not have food,” said Farouk Ahmed from Sudan.

The encampment held at least 1,400 migrants, local officials have said, but 1,016 were evacuated. Two other makeshift camps in Paris holding some 1,000 migrants are expected to be cleared next week.

Police have cleared out some 28,000 migrants from Paris camps in the past three years, but the arrivals continue.

President Emmanuel Macron wants a tough response to migrants arriving in France. Two days ago, he nevertheless opened the way to citizenship and a job for a Malian migrant who scaled a building and saved a young child dangling from a balcony in what Macron called “an exceptional act.” A video of Mamoudou Gassama’s feat went viral, gaining him the nickname “Spiderman.”

“This is very good for refugees … refugees are helping people,” Ahmed said of Gassama’s heroism, claiming that the French regard refugees as “bad.”

A migrant from Chad who was moved to a shelter said he had applied for asylum — meaning he should not have been living in an encampment.

“It has been hard here. It’s dirty. There is no toilet. No shower to wash in … You don’t eat well here,” Ousmane Tahir said.

The camps have been at the heart of a political debate between French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo over how to handle migrants. The mayor and dozens of associations pressed for the migrants to be sheltered once dislodged from their encampments, as in the past. The minister dragged his feet.

Hidalgo, who has paid weekly visits to the encampment, said she felt good that the migrants were being taken to shelters, but “I think we could have done without the four-month wait.”

City Hall says it has spent 30 million euros ($34.8 million) since 2015 helping refugees, bolstering state aid, as well as 80 million euros each year on isolated minors.

“This is an issue of dignity,” said Pierre Henry, head of an aid group, France Terre D’Asile. “Street camps should not exist in our country.”

Associated Press

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French police clear out Paris migrant camp


French riot police clear 1,000 migrants from Paris makeshift camp

People sleeping rough along canal Saint-Denis moved to shelters in clearance operation

A migrant leaving a camp in Paris
 A man leaving a makeshift camp along canal Saint-Denis in northern Paris. Photograph: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

French riot police have cleared more than 1,000 migrants and refugees from one of the largest makeshift camps in Paris, where they had been sleeping rough for months in squalid conditions.

Hundreds of homeless people were taken by bus to temporary shelters on Wednesday. Among them were women, children and unaccompanied minors.

More than 2,000 migrants and refugees had been sleeping on pavements under bridges and canals in northern Paris, with scant access to running water, no showers and few temporary toilets, in what doctors and aid groups described as “catastrophic sanitary conditions”.

There has been a scathing political row as the Socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, accused Emmanuel Macron’s government of failing to provide state help for the large number of people sleeping rough in the capital.

At about 6am, riot police arrived at the largest of the camps, where more than 1,700 people have been sleeping under a motorway bridge along canal Saint-Denis.

Calmly, migrants and refugees boarded buses clutching small bags of belongings, before the tents were destroyed. The interior ministry said people would be housed in temporary shelter while their documents and administrative situation were checked.

French riot police at a cleared migrant camp in Paris
 French riot police inspect tents left behind at the camp. Photograph: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

Many who had been sleeping rough are from Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea, and had made perilous crossings of the Mediterranean after detention and ill-treatment in Libya.

Further camps along the canal and at Porte de la Chapelle, where hundreds more are sleeping on the streets, are expected to be cleared in coming days.

The local prefect’s office said 1,017 people were transferred to temporary shelters, including 64 vulnerable people such as women, children and unaccompanied minors.

Local authorities said the dawn operation was the 35th police eviction of camps in Paris in the past three years. There has been a cycle of tents being evacuated and destroyed. But homeless migrants and asylum seekers with no other solution often quickly set up camp elsewhere in the city in squalid locations that are becoming more and more remote.

Police escort rough sleepers from canal Saint-Denis
 Police escort rough sleepers from canal Saint-Denis. Photograph: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

Pierre Henry from the aid group France terre d’asile said: “This is an issue of dignity. Street camps should not exist in our country.”

Paris has long faced problems of migrants and asylum seekers sleeping rough, separate to issues around Calais, where a makeshift camp of up to 8,000 people was dismantled 18 months ago.

Macron’s proposed immigration law, currently being examined by the French senate, seeks to criminalise illegal border crossing, and speed up the processes for asylum requests and expelling people unable to claim asylum. Aid groups have argued the plan does not set out a long-term system to receive and provide shelter for those arriving in France.


EU to double funding for military force in West Africa’s Sahel region

February 23, 2018


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union is set to double its funding for a multi-national military operation in West Africa’s Sahel region to counter Islamist insurgencies on Friday, EU diplomats said, part of a broader effort to fight militants and people traffickers.

At a donor conference of some 50 countries including the United States, Japan and Norway, military power France hopes to win enough backing to allow a regional force first proposed four years ago to be fully operational later this year.

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“There is a direct European interest in restoring stability to the region,” a senior EU diplomat said. “There is a general awareness now that the future of the European Union is also the future of Africa.”

Fears that violence in the arid zone could fuel already high levels of migration towards Europe and become a springboard for attacks on the West have made military and development aid there a priority for European nations and Washington.

The G5 Sahel force, made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, needs more than 400 million euros ($494 million) to be able to meet the demands of its Western backers, up from the 250 million euros it has now.

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French President Emmanuel Macron observed operations in northern Mali in May 2017 [Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA]

France, which has more than 4,000 troops in the region, hopes to reach at least 300 million on Friday, as the European Union pledges another 50 million euros to take its contribution to 100 million for the force that has struggled to meet expectations while militants have scored military victories in West Africa.

So far, the United States has pledged 60 million euros to support it. Another 100 million euros has been pledged by Saudi Arabia, 30 million from the United Arab Emirates and 40 million on a bilateral basis by EU member states, separate from the EU’s joint effort.

Separately, France is set to pledge 1.2 billion euros to fund development in the region over the next five years, a 40 percent increase over current levels, an EU diplomat said.


The deaths of two French soldiers this week in Mali and four U.S. soldiers in October in Niger, where most Americans did not know the United States had forces, has highlighted the security threat in the vast scrublands spanning from Mauritania to Chad.

French President Emmanuel Macron will call for more to be done to support a separate EU train-and-advise mission in Mali, a second EU diplomat said, and is seeking some 50 more EU troops after Belgian soldiers ended their tour in the mission.

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Chadian soldiers march a training mission for African militaries

France has been frustrated that it is the only EU member with combat troops on the ground, although others have contributed trainers. By training African forces, Paris sees an eventual exit strategy for what is its biggest foreign deployment, diplomats said.

“There’s a lack of EU training troops that we must fill,” a EU diplomat said.

Macron will also call to redouble efforts to broker peace through talks with Tuareg rebels in the desert north.

Tuaregs and jihadists took over northern Mali in 2012 before French forces pushed them back in 2013 in an intervention that alerted Washington to the growing threat in the region.

The G5 Sahel operation, whose command base is in central Mali, is set to swell to 5,000 men from seven battalions and will also engage in humanitarian and development work.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that training soldiers was not the only strategy and called for greater efforts to relieve the roots of the conflict in poverty, poor governance and climate hazards.

“When you add more weapons, you add more suffering,” Patrick Youssef, deputy head of the ICRC’s operations for Africa, told Reuters. “That needs to be accompanied with real measures to alleviate the suffering that is the main reason why this war was created.”

Two French soldiers killed in Mali attack

February 21, 2018

File photo for a soldier of France’s Barkhane mission patrols in central Mali, in the border zone with Burkina Faso and Niger as a joint anti-militant force. (AFP)
PARIS: Two French soldiers were killed after their armored vehicle was hit by an explosive device in Mali, the French president’s office said on Wednesday. Another soldier was injured as a result of the explosion.
France has deployed around 4,000 French troops in the West Africa’s Sahel region as part of Operation Barkhane aimed at tackling Islamist militants in the region. (Reuters)
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French President Emmanuel Macron, center, and Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, center right, visit soldiers of Operation Barkhane, France’s largest overseas military operation, in Gao, Northern Mali, May 19, 2017.

French raid in Mali leaves at least 10 jihadists dead

February 15, 2018


© AFP | File photo of a French army Rafale warplane on its way to Gao, northern Mali


Latest update : 2018-02-15

French air power on Wednesday killed at least 10 jihadists in northeast Mali near the border with Algeria, local and foreign military sources said.

French forces on Wednesday led at least one raid near Tinzaouatene, at the Algerian border, against the terrorists,” a local Malian military source told AFP.

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“There were at least 10 deaths and two vehicles were destroyed.”

An ex colonel in the Malian army who had defected, who is close to the jihadists’ leader, was killed in the raid, according to an army statement.

“This was the base of the head of the network, Iyad Ag Ghaly, at Tinzaouatene, which was the main target of the operation,” a foreign security source in Mali told AFP.

The offensive was part of France’s Operation Barkhane, active in Mali as well as four other former French colonies in west Africa Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.

These countries form the so-called G5 Sahel, a French-supported group that launched a joint military force to combat jihadists last year.

The Malian source said the French force had been conducting operations in northeastern Mali for several days.

A foreign military source confirmed that “several” raids had been carried out in the region on Wednesday, killing at least 10 jihadists.

Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of the desert north of Mali in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

However large tracts of the country remain lawless despite a peace accord signed with ethnic Tuareg leaders in mid-2015 aimed at isolating the jihadists.

On Tuesday in neighbouring Burkina Faso meanwhile, a policeman was killed and two were injured in an attack at a village near the eastern town of Fada N’Gourma, in a region that has largely escaped Islamist unrest.

The assailants’ identity was unknown.

Northern Burkina Faso has seen frequent attacks by suspected jihadists, with two police killed late last month in the town of Baraboule.


14 Malian soldiers killed in attack on camp: army

January 27, 2018


© AFP/File / by Serge DANIEL | Malian soldiers, part of the joint G5 Sahel military force, sit in a vehicle as they patrol in central Mali on November 2, 2017

BAMAKO (AFP) – Fourteen Malian soldiers were killed and 18 wounded on Saturday in an attack on their camp in Mali’s restive north, the army said, while military sources told AFP jihadists were responsible.Mali’s deteriorating security situation is of growing concern as Al-Qaeda-linked groups mount increasingly deadly attacks on domestic and foreign forces, and the country’s president on Saturday cancelled his visit to an African summit.

“The Malian armed forces were attacked early this morning, around 4am, in Soumpi (Timbuktu region). We have recorded 14 dead, 18 wounded and material damage,” a statement from the military posted on social media said.

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A military source based in Bamako had told AFP the men were killed “during a cowardly terrorist attack on the Soumpi camp”.

The local official confirmed the death toll, and said five wounded men were transferred to the town of Niafunke for medical treatment.

The Soumpi incident comes two days after 26 civilians including mothers and babies were killed when their vehicle ran over a landmine in Boni, central Mali, according to a UN death toll.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had cancelled planned travel to the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to visit Boni on Saturday, he said in a tweet.

The UN Security Council said it “condemned in the strongest terms the barbaric and cowardly terrorist attack”, referring to Thursday’s incident.

– Armed groups under scrutiny –

Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of the desert north of Mali in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

In June 2015, Mali’s government signed a peace agreement with coalitions of non-jihadist armed groups. But Islamist insurgents remain active, and large tracts of the country are lawless.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a French-drafted statement giving parties to the 2015 peace deal until the end of March to show progress or face sanctions.

The council said there was a “pressing need to deliver tangible and visible peace dividends to the population in the North and other parts of Mali” ahead of elections scheduled for this year.

Mali is one of a string of poor, fragile nations in the Sahel region that have been battered by terror attacks.

The country has joined the so-called “G5 Sahel force” with Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, pooling military efforts to fight the jihadists.

by Serge DANIEL
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French soldiers in the Sahel

Sahel defence ministers in Paris in push for ‘G5’ force

January 15, 2018
© AFP/File / by Daphné BENOIT | The G5 Sahel force will number up to 5,000 troops from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania
PARIS (AFP) – Defence ministers from five countries in the Sahel were meeting Monday with French counterpart Florence Parly in the latest push for a pooled force fighting jihadism in the fragile region.The brief meeting, in which senior military officers were to take part, aims at setting down a concrete timetable for deploying the so-called “G5 Sahel” force, which carried out its maiden mission in November with French support.

The unprecedented initative brings together Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, which aim to create a fully fledged force of 5,000 troops by mid-2018.

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These countries have been hit by jihadist attacks that began in Nigeria, claiming thousands of lives, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, crippling local economies and worsening food security.

The G5 Sahel force is intended to work alongside France’s 4,000 Barkhane troops, which deployed to Mali in 2013, and the UN’s 12,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping operation in Mali.

But the five participating countries — all former French colonies — are among the poorest in the world and their militaries are badly under-equipped.

France, an enthusiastic backer of the force, is leading efforts to drum up funding.

So far, 294 million euros ($360 million) has been pledged, led by 100 million euros committed by Saudi Arabia.

That sum has enabled the first phase of operations. Another round of funding talks takes place in Brussels on February 23.

In an interview Monday with the French daily Liberation, Parly said a key goal of the G5 Sahel plan was to ease dependence on French forces, enabling them to pare back their presence in the Sahel.

“The Africans themselves say it — this security problem is first and foremost their problem,” she said.

On Friday, a group claiming to be from the sp-called Islamic State organisation said the various jihadist groups in the Sahel were teaming up to fight the G5 force.

“We are joining hands to fight the miscreants,” said a spokesman for the group, which calls itself the Islamic State in the Great Sahara.

Western security and military sources have recently said they have detected stepped-up cooperation on the ground among the various jihadist groups in Sahel.

by Daphné BENOIT

‘Islamic State’ seeks new foothold in Africa

January 2, 2018

After the terrorist organization al Qaeda, now the so-called “Islamic State” is trying to expand its influence in Africa. Military means alone are not enough to fight it.

Young Ethiopians hold up a banner at an anti-IS protest in Addis Ababa (Getty Images/AFP/Abubeker)

French President Emmanuel Macron found clear words on terrorism in Africa during his recent visit to Niger.

“The fight is not won today,” Macron said. Within the next few months, one thing was needed above all: “Clear victories for our armed forces against the terrorists.”

In Niger, as with most other countries in the region, few such successes can be claimed.

Jihadi forces have established footholds across the Sahel, in Chad, Mali, and indeed Niger. And the prospects of defeating them and neutralizing their ideology are far from good. At the very least, considerable efforts are required from French and other western troops, together with local forces, to rein in jihadism in the region.

Alternative territory in Africa

Macron’s urgent focus on the next six months was no accident. That’s because the so-called Islamic State (IS) has recently lost large areas that it used to control in Iraq and Syria. Now it’s trying to make up for that lost ground elsewhere, including western Africa. IS fighters in Niger recently showed just how dangerous and combative they can be. Early in October, soldiers from the US and Niger clashed with militants associated with IS on the border with Mali. The battle claimed the lives of four US and five Nigerien troops.

IS “has aspirations to establish a larger presence” in Africa, according to US General Joseph Dunford. He said after the October attack that the US military would make recommendations to President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “for the allocation of forces that meet what we see as the threat, what we anticipate the threat to be.” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham found more blunt words: “The war is morphing. We’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less.”

President Macron shakes hands with President Issoufou of Niger (picture-alliance/AP Photo/T. Djibo)President Macron (center left) met President Issoufou in Niamey shortly before Christmas to discuss terror in the Sahel region

The US has already stationed around 1,300 special forces troops in Africa. France has deployed 4,000 soldiers in the Sahel region to assist soldiers from Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. Italy is also considering relocating troops from Iraq to Niger, at Macron’s request. Donor countries have so far collected around €300 million ($360 million) to help fund the missions. Another such fundraiser is planned for January in Saudi Arabia, followed by another in February in Brussels.

Read more — UN approves Sahel counterterrorism force

‘Mali is our Afghanistan’

It’s not yet clear whether money or military aid will be enough to stop the expansion of jihadism in the region, or indeed to drive it back. The challenges facing the alliance are immense. Christophe Ayad, a Middle East and Africa analyst for French daily newspaper Le Monde, wrote in November: “Mali is our Afghanistan.” He said both countries were following similar patterns: first a military triumph, then a failed reconstruction and then a gradual spread of new insurrection, more brutal and more politically shrewd than the previous one.

A helicopter with Bundesweher soldiers in Mali (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen)Bundeswehr soldiers at Camp Castor in Mali

Ayad said the reasons for this cycle were complex, and predicted that Western troops’ commitment to the mission would wane with time, not least because they’d start to lose trust in their local partners on the ground. “Local authorities on the other hand are being marginalized by their western protectors, who tell them what to do, even though they do not understand the local conditions such as how to deal with this clan, that tribe, this political group or that militia.” Meanwhile, the jihadis continue to spread.

Conditions for contagion

According to a study by the American think tank NSI, the spread of jihadism is determined by a whole series of factors. Its findings suggest that, ideologically, the Sahel region is a rather difficult area for jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and IS. The people there are generally not religious zealots. However, the susceptibility to such movements was increased by the spread of Wahhabism, the strict interpretation of Sunni Islam manufactured in Saudi Arabia, in the Sahel.

Other issues that can help foment jihadi movements include specific local political and economic grievances. The perceived political legitimacy of a country’s government can be important, the study’s authors found. They said that the overall risk for the Sahel was high, “given its expanse of ungoverned space, which IS is likely to target.” What’s more, the contributors said that the Sahel “may be the poorest majority-Muslim territory in the world, with generally weak governments in the region, and an absence of national identity in specific states.”

A mix of weaknesses

Such charges could also be leveled at other sub-Saharan states like Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. “While the mix of vulnerability and resilience may vary in these and other countries of West Africa, they share a large mixture of all factors, all of which contribute to structural fragility,” the NSI report states.

All this has prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to call for international and urgent action against Islamist extremism in Africa. But he surely knows that speed is but one factor in the fight against terrorism. Paradoxically, what he might need most of all to win this battle is time. A lot of time.

S. Arabia pledges $100 million and UAE $30 million for Sahel anti-terror force

December 13, 2017


© Ludovic Marin, AFP | Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (L), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and France’s President Emmanuel Macron take part in a press conference on December 13 at La Celle-Saint-Cloud, near Paris.


Latest update : 2017-12-13

Saudi Arabia has pledged $100 million towards a five-nation anti-terror force in the Sahel region of West Africa, while the United Arab Emirates has offered $30 million, French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday.

Macron made the announcement at a meeting to drum up support for the G5 Sahel force, an initiative pooling troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The leaders of the five nations, which are among the world’s poorest, joined Macron and other leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the talks at a chateau in La Celle-Saint-Cloud outside Paris.

Former colonial power France is fighting against jihadists in West Africa with its 4,000-strong regional Barkhane force, but is keen for the countries affected to take on more responsibility.

>> Video: FRANCE 24 follows the forces fighting Sahel jihadists

“We must win the war against terrorism in the Sahel-Sahara region,” Macron told a press conference after the meeting.

“There are attacks everyday, there are states which are currently in jeopardy… We must intensify our efforts,” he said.


Africa, Europe seek to boost Sahel anti-terror force

December 13, 2017


© AFP/File / by Daphné BENOIT, Jérôme RIVET | The world’s newest joint international force, the five-nation G5 Sahel, has already held operations with France’s regional Barkhane force

PARIS (AFP) – France’s Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday hosted a group of African and European leaders, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, to drum up support for a new counter-terrorism force in the terror-plagued Sahel.Two years in the planning, the force brings together troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in a desert region the size of Europe.

Former colonial power France is currently leading counterterrorism operations there through its 4,000-strong Barkhane force, but is keen to share the burden as its military is engaged on various fronts.

The ambitious goal is to have 5,000 local troops operational by mid-2018, wresting back border areas from jihadists including a local Al-Qaeda affiliate.

But Macron — who has had a busy week of diplomacy after a climate summit on Tuesday — has expressed frustration at delays, with the first mission only taking place last month in the volatile border zone between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

“It’s an initiative that’s getting more powerful, but speed is a problem,” French Defence Minister Florence Parly told RFI radio.

“We have to go faster,” she said. “The objective is to be able to move forward faster on financing and the military structure.”

The five Sahel countries are among the poorest in the world, and funding will be high on the agenda as their presidents join Macron at a chateau in Celle-Saint-Cloud outside Paris.

Officials from oil-rich Saudi Arabia — which may confirm a $100 million (85 million euro) contribution, according to the French presidency — are notably on the guest list.

UAE officials are also attending along with the Italian and Belgian prime ministers and representatives of the European Union, African Union and United States.

Priority number one is to re-establish law and order in the border zone where several hundred soldiers, backed by French troops, carried out last month’s debut mission.

Militants have mounted repeated attacks in recent months, including an assault in Niger on October 4 which killed four US soldiers and another two weeks later in which 21 Niger troops died.

In August, gunmen stormed a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, killing 19 including foreigners.

– Strategic region –

The G5 force is set to work alongside Barkhane troops and the UN’s 12,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping operation in Mali — the most dangerous in the world, having lost 90 lives since 2013.

The International Crisis Group described the G5 force as a European efforts to “bring down the expense of their overseas operations by delegating them partially to their African partners”.

“The Sahel is politically and economically strategic, especially for France and Germany, both of which view the region as posing a potential threat to their own security and as a source of migration and terrorism,” it added in a report.

Wednesday’s talks are the latest effort by Macron to forge an influential role on the world stage, a day after he hosted an international climate summit.

They are designed to lay the groundwork for a summit in February, likely in Brussels, focused on raising funds for the G5 force.

The EU has so far pledged 50 million euros ($59 million) for the force and France another eight million, while each of the African countries is putting forward 10 million euros.

The United States has meanwhile promised to contribute a total $60 million.

But this leaves a serious shortfall, with France hoping to raise at least 250 million euros in the short-term, rising eventually to 400 million euros.

The arid Sahel region has become a magnet for Islamic militants since Libya descended into chaos in 2011.

In 2012, Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists overran the north of neighbouring Mali, including the fabled desert city of Timbuktu.

France intervened in 2013 to drive the jihadists back but swathes of central and northern Mali remain wracked by violence, which has spilled across its borders.

by Daphné BENOIT, Jérôme RIVET

French special forces prepare to battle Sahel militants

December 13, 2017


© France 24 screengrab

Video by Karim HAKIKI Armelle CHARRIER

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-12-13

FRANCE 24 reporters have been following French special forces in the Sahel as they prepare to battle Islamist militants. It’s the first time the French special forces allow journalists to film them during their mission in the Sahel region.

French special forces have been fighting Islamist militants for years in the Sahel, whose porous borders are regularly crossed by jihadists, including affiliates of al Qaeda and Islamic State. Their missions are secret and the forces do not communicate on the missions’ outcomes. Their goal is to prevent militant and terrorist groups from creating sanctuaries.

Special forces members are deployed in the Sahel for four months. They need to get used to the terrain, to the climate, and to the vegetation – anything that could play a role in their missions. Commandos are flexible and the chain of command is short, so everything can change in the blink of an eye. Operations can be prepared for weeks, or launched in just an hour.

French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a summit in Paris on December 13 aimed at widening support for the G5 Sahel – a regional anti-jihadist force composed of the armies of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

Click on the video player above to view FRANCE 24’s exclusive report.