EU, France pledge €1.3bn anti-terror aid for Africa Sahel

Mauritanian soldiers stand guard near the border with Mali. Remote areas have been targeted by extremists and other armed groups that have proliferated in Africa’s Sahel region. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2018

EU, France pledge €1.3bn anti-terror aid for Africa Sahel

  • The five Sahel states — Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger — have been struggling against extremism and lawlessness along the Sahara’s southern rim
  • The five Sahel countries say they need €1.9 billion to help them fund projects in border regions vulnerable to militants

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania: The European Union and France on Thursday said their total investment in development funding aimed at preventing terrorism in African Sahel countries would rise to €1.3 billion ($1.5 billion), as the region struggles with extremism and lawlessness.
The five Sahel states — Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger — have been struggling against extremism and lawlessness along the Sahara’s southern rim since a militant revolt that began with a Tuareg separatist uprising in northern Mali in 2012.
The EU’s International Cooperation and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica told a conference in the Mauritanian capital that the bloc’s Sahel Priority Investment Programme (PIP) “now totals almost €800 million,” with an extra €122 million announced Thursday.
France will invest €500 million for the “priorities” of the G5 Sahel, added French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, explaining that the country will add an extra €220 million to the €280 million already pledged.
“Half of this sum is for projects already planned or under way. The other half will be awarded in a speedy way over the next two years to enable you to meet your priorities,” Le Drian said.
The five Sahel countries told the meeting they needed €1.9 billion to help them fund projects in border regions vulnerable to militants. They themselves provide 13 percent of that sum.
Governments hope that with an array of projects, including building schools, health centers and improving access to water, they can prevent communities from falling under the influence of extremists.
Extremism in the region has been fueled by the chaos that engulfed Libya in 2011, the militant takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
The extremists were largely driven out of Mali in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.
The France-backed fledgling African regional force fighting militants is also suffering from lack of funding and shortfalls in equipment and training have led to delays in its operations.
As well as fighting terrorism it tackles smuggling and illegal immigration networks that operate in these vast, remote areas on the Sahara’s southern fringe.
A devastating attack in June on the force’s headquarters in Mali, claimed by an Al-Qaeda-linked group, destroyed the communications room, prompting a brief halt in operations.


Suicide bomber kills 18 in Afghan capital

Updated 24 October 2020

Suicide bomber kills 18 in Afghan capital

  • There has been an upsurge in violence between Taliban and Afghan forces in the country
  • The US signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February, opening up a path toward withdrawing American troops from the conflict

KABUL: A suicide bomber struck near an education centre in the Afghan capital on Saturday, killing at least 18 people in the latest attack to rock the conflict-wracked country.
Violence on the ground has spiked in recent weeks despite the Taliban and the Afghan government holding peace talks in Qatar to end the country's grinding war.
The suicide attack, which also wounded 57, happened late afternoon at the centre, which offers training and courses for students in higher education in a western district of Kabul.
"A suicide bomber wanted to enter the education centre," Tareq Arian, spokesman for the interior ministry, said in a statement.
"But he was identified by the centre's guards after which he detonated his explosives in an alley."
He said the attack had left at least 18 people dead and 57 wounded.
"I was standing about 100 metres from the centre when a big blast knocked me down," said local resident Ali Reza, who had gone to hospital with his cousin who was wounded in the blast.
"Dust and smoke was all around me. All those killed and wounded were students who wanted to enter the centre."
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.
Residents in several districts of western Kabul belong to the minority Shiite Hazara community, often targeted by Daesh militants. 
In the past, extremists have targeted several education centres and other facilities in the area.
In May, a group of gunmen launched a brazen daylight attack on a hospital in west Kabul that left several mothers dead. The gunmen were shot dead after hours of fighting with security forces.