BAMAKO (MALI), The European Union has agreed to give more than 50m euros to fund a new African joint military force in the Sahel region.
The force will be made up of troops from Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger, known as the Sahel G-5.
Its main mission will be to combat jihadist groups active in the region, as well as tackle trafficking networks and illegal migration.
The Sahel is home to many militant groups, some aligned with al-Qaeda.
More than 3,000 French troops and 12,000 UN troops have been engaged in Mali since 2013, when Islamist and Tuareg militants led an insurgency in the north of the country.
The militants were pushed out but they have continued to mount sporadic assaults on peacekeepers in northern and central regions.
The UN peacekeeping mission is one of the UN's most dangerous in decades, with more than 115 peacekeepers killed in four years.
The violence has spilled over the border into Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, with tourists targeted in recent years.
"Stability and development of the Sahel region are crucial not only for Africa but also for Europe," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in the Mali capital, Bamako.
Mali's Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop announced on Monday that the new force would have some 10,000 soldiers and police officers and become operational by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, is on a week-long five-nation tour in the Sahel Saharan region to reaffirm the AU's commitment and solidarity with the region in its fight against terrorism and criminal networks.
According to a statement issued by his spokesperson, Ebba Kalondo, the tour aims to create a safe and secure environment and contribute to the stabilization of the situation in the Sahel region, as well as its long term development.
Mahamat, who is accompanied by the Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui and the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Ambassador Minata Samate Cessouma, arrived in Niamey, Niger on June 3 and will continue to Chad, Mauritania, Mali and Burkina Faso.
Kalondo said that the visit demonstrates the AU's support of the region's cooperation agreement to address security issues along common borders due to the interlinked effects of terrorism and transnational organized criminal networks and inter communal conflict in the region.
"The daunting security and political challenges in Libya and the resurgence of terrorist attacks, especially along the northern Mali border, have created one of the most worrying threats to regional peace and security and the Chairperson is in the region to thank the regional leaders for taking the initiative to create an African framework of operational military support," he added.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK