UPDATED: Sahel leaders in France for anti-terrorism summit with Macron

France and nations from Africa’s Sahel region have agreed to step up military co-operation to fight the jihadist insurgency there.

Forces will be placed under one umbrella and efforts focused on tackling the Islamic State group, they said after a summit in Pau in France.

They also urged the US to maintain its support amid reports it might lessen its military presence in Africa.

Jihadist attacks on civilians and troops have been on the increase.

This is despite the presence of thousands of troops from both the countries affected and France.

Last year saw the highest annual death toll due to armed conflict in the region since 2012.

Emmanuel Macron hosts leaders of the G5 group in Pau Reuters photo

Six leaders met in the south-western French city, French President Emmanuel Macron hosting heads of Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania, the G5 group.

The nations agreed to a joint command structure – Coalition for the Sahel – to tackle the insurgency.

“We have no choice. We need results,” Mr Macron said.

France will send an additional 220 troops to supplement the 4,500 already in the region, he said.

Ahead of the talks, the leaders attended a memorial service for 13 French soldiers – seven from Pau – who died in a helicopter collision in Mali last month.

It was France’s deadliest military loss in a single day in about four decades.

The nations appealed to the US to continue its “crucial” logistical support. Mr Macron said he would try to persuade President Donald Trump to stay as “if the Americans decided to leave Africa, this would be very bad news for us”.

The New York Times reported last month the Pentagon was considering reducing troop levels in Africa or even withdrawing completely.

There had been tension ahead of the summit, with Mr Macron and Defence Minister Florence Parly saying the Sahel nations needed to say clearly that French troops were wanted, while condemning anti-French feelings on the ground.

Source: BBC

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