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ECOWAS Nations Hold Emergency Counter-terrorism Summit

ECOWAS Nations Hold Emergency Counter-terrorism Summit

Sunday, 15 September, 2019 - 08:15
West African leaders meet in the capital of Burkina Faso on September 14. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat

At an emergency summit in Burkina Faso on Saturday, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders came together to discuss the dangers of terrorism threatening the region and the desperate need for coordinating counter-terrorism efforts.

Concerted efforts are badly needed to combat raging terrorism in the Lake Chad and Sahel areas where militias affiliated to al-Qaeda and ISIS are active.

ECOWAS brings together 15 countries whose economies range from West Africa's heavyweights Nigeria and Ivory Coast to the impoverished Liberia and Sierra Leone. Landlocked Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are non-coastal states.

The summit discussed means to reinforce counter-terrorism efforts at a time ECOWAS members are seeking to produce a clear vision for collective security in West Africa.

In 2017, five countries — Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania — backed by former colonial power France, launched the G5 Sahel taskforce to combat extremists.

But a lack of finance, training and equipment limited their effectiveness and their numbers. For the moment, the force numbers 4,000 troops, when 5,000 were originally planned.

The scale of the challenge facing the G5 Sahel force is huge. According to the US think-tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the number of radical attacks in the Sahel has doubled each year since 2016. Last year, the tally was 465 — more than one a day.

In the past months and years, the Sahel region has faced a resurgence of terrorist activities by various extremist groups, including Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and, increasingly, ISIS returnees.

Countries like Burkina, Niger, and Mali, and Nigeria have so far borne the brunt of the rising insecurity in the region.

West African countries face serious risks of escalating terrorist attacks. According to the non-governmental organization Oxfam, some 13 million people (in West Africa) need help after they fled their homes because of terrorist attacks.

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