EU extends military mission in the Sahel

EU increases budget for the mission to €133m for four years

Malian troops stand guard prior to the visit of the French Prime Minister at the Operation Barkane military French base in Gao, Mali, on February 24, 2019. / AFP / ALAIN JOCARD
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The EU has increased its military operation in the Sahel, and extended its mission to train the Malian Armed Forces.

The European Council on Monday said the mission would provide military assistance to the G5 Sahel Joint Force, which comprises troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

It will also give national armed forces in those countries military advice, training and mentoring. The Council extended the mission’s mandate until May 18, 2024.

The EU is increasing the budget for the mission to €133.7 million (Dh527.3m) for four years.

The mission will continue to co-ordinate and co-operate with other parties such as the UN, France's Barkhane operation and the Economic Community of West African States, the Council said.

The EU mission is part of the bloc's security and development strategy in the Sahel.

It was established in 2013, at the request of the Malian government, to strengthen the Malian Armed Forces and fight the threat posed by terrorist groups.

Its headquarters are in Bamako, Mali, and its commander is Brig Gen Joao Boga Ribeiro, a Portuguese national who took up his duties in December last year.

There are two other military missions in the region.

They are the EU Capacity Building Mission in Mali, which assists the internal security forces in reasserting the government's authority over the whole of the country, and Eucap Niger, which supports the fight against organised crime and terrorism in that country.

France has a strong military presence in Mali.

It first sent troops in 2013 and now has more than 5,000 across the huge area of Central Africa as fighting has intensified, killing more than 4,000 people last year, the UN says.

Hundreds of thousands more people have been forced to flee their homes because of the fighting.