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Embattled G5 Sahel anti-terror force resumes operations

By AFP - Oct 17,2019 - Last updated at Oct 17,2019

BAMAKO — A five-nation force set up to roll back terrorism in the Sahel has carried out a military operation for the first time in months, according to a statement on Thursday that said troops made a “major seizure” of weapons in northern Niger.

The so-called G5 Sahel force pools military personnel from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, which are struggling against escalating attacks by armed terrorists.

The force was conceived in 2015 and began its first operations in 2017, but remains hamstrung by lack of funds, training and weaponry and has still not reached its 5,000-man target.

The latest operation, carried out by a Nigerien battalion in northern Niger from October 1 to 10, seized “assault rifles, handguns, anti-tank rockets, grenades and several boxes of small-calibre ammunition, as well as observation equipment,” the statement said.

On October 4, the same unit intercepted a four-wheel-drive vehicle “coming from Libya”, detained the five people on board and seized rifles with laser sights and quantities of ammunition, it said.

“This military operation by the joint force is the prelude to an intensification of actions on the ground to restore peace and security,” it said.

It was the G5 Sahel’s first operations since the end of July, when a new commander, Nigerien General Oumarou Namata Gazama, took the helm — a move seen by European supporters of the initiative as a welcome sign of change, according to a western diplomat.

The G5 Sahel’s headquarters were initially in Savare in volatile central Mali but were moved to Bamako after coming under attack in June 2018.

On September 30 and October 1, a Malian battalion under G5 Sahel command lost at least 40 men in a jihadist attack near central Mali’s border with Burkina Faso, according to an official, but still provisional, toll.

The G5 Sahel is backed by France, which wants the joint force to take over more responsibilities from its 4,500-man Barkane mission in the Sahel.

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