French PM urges joint stand to drive back extremists in Sahel

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Malian troops stand guard prior to the visit of the French Prime Minister at the Operation Barkane military French base in Gao, Mali, on February 24, 2019. (AFP)
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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe leaves a British army "Chinook" helicopter during a visit at the Operation Barkane military French base in Gao, on February 24, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2019
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French PM urges joint stand to drive back extremists in Sahel

  • France is backing a 5,000-man joint mission among the five nation G5 Sahel force on the front line: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad

GAO, Mali: French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Sunday urged partners to commit to stand with Paris in driving back jihadi violence in the Sahel.
“We require everyone’s commitment to progress toward durable stabilization. Nobody can boast of being able to do without the backing of others,” Philippe said, citing a Malian proverb at his troop’s headquarters at 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.
France is backing a 5,000-man joint mission among the five nation G5 Sahel force on the front line: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad.
But Chergui voiced disappointment in difficulties faced in financing and equipping the force at a time when the future of the current UN mission MINUSMA is uncertain.
The Islamist revolt in the Sahel took off after chaos engulfed Libya in 2011. Militant attacks erupted in northern Mali as Boko Haram emerged in northern Nigeria.
Large areas of Mail remain out of contril, and the extremists have gained ground in neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, while Chad is battling unrest on its borders.
“It is the action of all, with (French-led anti-insurgent Operation) Barkhane, alongside Malian forces, which will drive back jihadism,” said Philippe, who arrived in Mali late Friday for a two-day visit.
On Sunday he addressed French, Malian, British and Estonian forces saying he wanted to salute the troops’ “remarkable and decisive” results to date, including the recently announced deaths of extremist leaders Amadou Koufa and, last Thursday, Algerian Djamel Okacha, alias Yahya Abou El Hamame.
“Every day our enemies are suffering important losses, reducing their capacity to cause trouble,” said Philippe, though he conceded the threat has not disappeared.
Saturday he said 2,700 French forces in the region since 2014 “will remain as long as is necessary.”
While in Gao, Philippe, accompanied by Defense Minister Florence Parly, visited a monument to 24 French soldiers who have died in Mali to date.


Venezuela says Russian planes land for military cooperation

Updated 1 min 8 sec ago
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Venezuela says Russian planes land for military cooperation

  • Russia backs Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has rejected demands from the United States and dozens of other countries that he resign
CARACAS, Venezuela: A Venezuelan official says Russian aircraft arrived in Caracas this weekend as part of ongoing military cooperation between the two allies.
The official said Sunday that Russian military officials are visiting to discuss equipment maintenance and training, and strategy. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Flightradar24, a flight-tracking site, showed the flight path Saturday of what it listed as a Russian air force plane, apparently headed to Caracas while flying across the Caribbean.
Javier Mayorca, a Venezuelan journalist, tweeted that a Russian cargo plane with military equipment also arrived in Caracas on Saturday.
The reports could not be independently confirmed.
Russia backs Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has rejected demands from the United States and dozens of other countries that he resign.