French President in Mali to consolidate backing for regional anti-jihadist force

Mali: Macron in Mali Sunday for Launch of Sahel Anti-Terror Force

Macron Returns to Mali for Security Summit

Mali hosted leaders from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger who are promising troops to confront armed groups at home.

France has been urging greater support for the Sahel region amid mounting insecurity.

Macron is expected to announce that France fully supports the establishment of the regional force.

The 5,000-strong force will be deployed by September, and its funding will be finalized by then, Macron said at a press conference.

"We can not hide behind words, and must take actions", he said.

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With its base in Sevaré in central Mali, the 5,000-strong G5 Sahel force aims to bolster the 12,000 United Nations peacekeepers and France's 4,000-strong military operation in the region.

Will the new regional force work? "It's a force that fights against terrorism, and the trafficking of drugs and humans".

The al Qaeda-linked group, Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimeen, released a video over the weekend that purported to show six western hostages abducted in West Africa's Sahel region in recent years. The UN, however, will not contribute financially.

Most of the militant attacks in the Sahel region originated in Mali, which was almost overrun by an alliance of separatist and Islamist insurgents until the French military intervened in 2013. France is to offer "advice, material and combat", Macron said. The video claimed that "no genuine negotiations have begun to rescue your children". "And we will put all of our energies into eradicating them".

Macron also said France would provide 200 million euros in development assistance to the Sahel, a semiarid region stretching along the southern end of the Sahara, over the next five years. The main area of operation will be the border area of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, where French troops this year killed at least 20 suspected militants hiding in a forest. Religious extremism has spread south, and attacks have become more brazen.

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