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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

G5 Sahel meeting with France postponed after deadly attack in Niger

French President Emmanuel Macron and Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou agreed on Thursday to postpone to early 2020 a meeting of Sahel country leaders due to take place in France later this month, the French presidency said.

The decision to postpone the event, which was to address France’s military presence in the region as well as the fight against jihadist organisations, follows an attack on a remote military camp in Niger.

Islamist militants killed 71 soldiers in the assault on a military camp located near the border with Mali, an army spokesman said on Wednesday.

Niger is part of a five-nation anti-jihadist task force known as the G5, set up in 2014 with Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Chad.

Thousands of civilians and soldiers have died in violence across the vast Sahel region, which began when armed Islamists revolted in northern Mali in 2012.

The conflict has since spread to the centre of Mali and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. Attacks continue, despite the 4,500 French troops deployed in the region as part of Operation Barkhane to help local forces.

Thirteen French soldiers were killed in Mali last month when two helicopters collided during an operation against jihadists in the country’s restive north, in the heaviest single loss for the French military in nearly four decades.

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