French PM urges joint stand against militants in Sahel

GAO, Mali (AFP) – French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Sunday urged partners to stand with Paris in driving back militant violence in the Sahel.

France, with troops on the ground in the region, is backing a 5,000-man joint mission among the five-nations in the G5 Sahel force on the frontline: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad.

“We require everyone’s commitment to progress towards durable stabilisation. Nobody can boast of being able to do that without the backing of others,” Philippe said, citing a Malian proverb at his troops’ headquarters in Gao.

He was speaking days after the African Union’s peace and security chief Smail Chergui urged member states to tackle the root causes of extremism in the Sahel region.

Chergui voiced disappointment at the difficulties in financing and equipping the force at a time when the future of the UN’s MINUSMA mission in Mali is uncertain.

Highlighting Mali’s fragile security, two Malian troops and a civilian were wounded on Sunday when suicide bombers in vehicles attacked a military base near Bamako where European military trainers are based, local authorities said.

Two assailants were killed in the attack on Koulikoro Training Centre some 60 kilometres from the capital, where the EUTM European training mission and Mali’s officer training school is located, the Malian ministry for security and civil protection said in a statement.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, flanked by Division General Frederic Blachon, commander of the Barkane force, visits the Operation Barkane military French base in Gao. – AFP