France's Macron looks to give 'new force' to Sahel anti-jihadist campaign

France's Macron looks to give 'new force' to Sahel anti-jihadist campaign
France's Macron looks to give 'new force' to Sahel anti-jihadist campaign

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - PORT-BOUET, IVORY COAST - French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Ivory Coast on Friday to celebrate Christmas with French troops, saying Paris would work to give "new force" to the regional fight against Islamist militants.

The jihadist insurgency in several poor Sahel nations will be a top item on Macron's agenda in 48-hour stay in the region where attacks have spread since the Islamist militancy began seven years ago in Mali.

Away from weeks of protest strikes gripping France, Macron's personal chef traveled with him to cook dinner for around 1,000 troops at the military base in Port-Bouet, near Abidjan's airport.

"I hope we can give new depth, new commitments, a new force to this operation and win a fight that is key to the stability and security of the Sahel," the French leader said addressing troops at Port-Bouet.

"We will keep up the fight against jihadist terrorists. We will continue to do so with our African partners and with our European and international partners," he said. "Because if we let the threat flourish, it will impact us too."

Earlier Macron and his wife Brigitte were met at the airport with his Ivorian counterpart Alassane Ouattara.

Despite some 4,500 French troops in the Sahel region, alongside a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Mali, the conflict has engulfed the center of the country and spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

The leaders of five Sahel nations are due to attend a summit in Paris on January 13, when Macron said they would clarify the "political and strategic framework" of the operation against the militants.

Macron met several French soldiers who took part in November in an anti-terrorist operation in Mali, where 13 men lost their lives.

On Sunday, Macron will pay a flying visit for talks with President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, where jihadist attacks are frequent, as in both neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso. -AFP


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