Niger president moots regional anti-terror force

Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou says he will not amend the constitution to allow him to seek a third term after his second and final mandate ends in 2021 (AFP Photo/John MACDOUGALL) (AFP/File)

Niamey (AFP) - President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger on Monday proposed setting up a multinational west African force to fight terrorism.

"We must work to strengthen the mandate and troop strength of MINUSMA to allow it to mount offensives against all kinds of terrorist forces in northern Mali," Issoufou said, referring to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.

He was speaking at a summit of the Conseil de l'Entente, a regional five-member cooperation forum set up in 1959 and currently chaired by Niger.

"Failing that, to effectively fight terrorism in this brother country, we should set up a mixed multinational force modelled on the force operating in the Lake Chad region," he said.

Established a year ago, that force comprises 8,500 troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Benin and Cameroon.

"It's now operational and for several weeks has been mounting effective operations against Boko Haram," said Issoufou.

"In the face of terrorism we have no choice but to combine our forces as well as our defence and intelligence capacities," he said.

Attacks such as that on Grand Bassam, a coastal town near Ivory Coast's economic capital Abidjan which left 19 dead in March "show that the theatre of (terrorist) operations know no bounds," he said.

Presidents Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, Roch Marc Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso, Patrice Talon of Benin, and Faure Gnassingne of Togo attended the summit.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was there as an observer, as Mali is not a member of the grouping.

Boko Haram launched its insurgency aimed at setting up an Islamic state in Nigeria seven years ago and has since become active in several other west African states.