UAE pushes for ‘redoubled’ Sahel anti-terror effort

Ambassador to UN Security Council says action is needed before ISIS and Boko Haram establish firmer footholds for attacks

Soldiers patrol the road of Gorgadji, Burkina Faso, in the Sahel region in 2019. Reuters
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The UAE on Monday pushed for “redoubled” efforts against ISIS and Boko Haram across Africa’s Sahel belt before the terrorist groups establish footholds for launching future attacks.

UAE ambassador Lana Nusseibeh told the UN Security Council that the “fragile security situation in West Africa and the Sahel is worsening” and called for tougher counter-terror operations.

“It is necessary to redouble our efforts to combat terrorist groups in these areas, especially [ISIS] and Boko Haram, who may take advantage of the political vacuum and the deteriorating social and economic conditions to establish a foothold for their terrorist activities,” Ms Nusseibeh said.

She also warned of the “link between organised crime and terrorism” in the vast, turbulent region and the “persistent acts of piracy and armed robbery” carried out by maritime raiders in the Gulf of Guinea.

Mali has struggled to suppress a brutal insurgency that emerged in the north of the country in 2012 before spreading to central regions and to nearby Burkina Faso and Niger.

Large parts of Mali’s vast territory lie outside of government control, and the worsening insurgency and instability have claimed thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Several military operations have been launched to counter the threat, including the French operation Barkhane and the G5 Sahel force, with units from Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania.

UN experts say Africa was the region hardest-hit region by terrorism in the first half of 2021 as ISIS and other extremist groups expanded operations, boasting of gains in supporters and territory and of inflicting the greatest casualties, including in the Sahel.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Monday said “large-scale attacks against military” targets and civilians continued in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Mr Dujarric described a “complex humanitarian crisis” aggravated by Covid-19 and drought.

Ms Nusseibeh said climate change was “one of the most staggering challenges facing West Africa and the Sahel”, and warned that lack of food and water were underlying problems affecting regional security.

The UAE and four other nations joined the UN Security Council for two-year membership terms on January 1.

The Emirates says it seeks to tackle climate change and terrorism, and get more women involved in UN peacekeeping missions.

Updated: January 10, 2022, 9:25 PM