The French and US ambassadors called for tighter regional and global cooperation to fight the threat of jihadist attacks in Senegal and the broader West Africa region in separate statements issued Tuesday.
After two successive attacks in past weeks in the capitals of Mali and Burkina Faso, Senegal’s Interior Minister Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo said “the surge of terrorist groups shows the international community must fight terrorism everywhere with the same combativity.”
Speaking at talks on a four-year French funding plan against terrorism, he said the only way forward was to “strengthen our cooperation” and “share our means.”
France’s ambassador to Senegal, Jean-Felix Paganon, who attended the meeting, said cooperation in the fight against the Islamist threat “calls for regional and international cooperation.”
At a separate meeting with the media, US ambassador James Zumwalt said “the Senegalese are very eager to partner with us and work with us because they obviously are concerned about the possibilities of terrorist incidents and also worried about radical extremism here in Senegal.”
Senegal, like Mali and Burkina Faso which were hit by deadly Islamist attacks in December and January, is a majority Muslim nation though it has so far been free of extremist jihadist attacks.
“The threat is no greater now than it was before the attack in Burkina Faso, it’s the same threat. And the Senegalese capability is the same capability that they had before,” the US diplomat said, referring to the January 15 attack against hotels and cafes popular with foreigners in the Burkina capital Ouagadougou that left 30 dead.
Both that attack and the one in Bamako in December were claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
“There’s more awareness now about those threats and we clearly want to work very closely with Senegal to help them increase their capacity to respond, either pre or post attack, to a terrorist incident,” he added.
He said an upcoming three-week joint military exercise between Africa, US and European troops, known as Flintlock and starting next week in Senegal and Mauritania would aim to help a country’s respond to an Islamist attack.
Around a dozen people, including several Muslim preachers, were arrested in November in Senegal for “links to AQIM and Islamic State”, a Senegalese security source told AFP.