Turkey announces $5m for Sahel anti-jihadist force

Nouakchott (AFP) –


Turkey will donate $5 million (4.1 million euros) to a fledgling force of five nations battling terrorism and trafficking in the Sahel, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced during a visit to Mauritania.

The G5 force, gathering Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, aims to train and equip 5,000 troops to restore authority in lawless areas where jihadists have gained a foothold.

"Turkey is one of the countries which best understands the dangers with which you are confronted in the Sahel. We have therefore decided to give $5 million to help the G5 Sahel force," Erdogan said late Wednesday in Nouakchott.

The European Union announced an extra 50 million euros ($61 million) for the G5 Sahel force at a fund-raising conference in Brussels on February 23.

With the Turkish pledge, a total of 418 million euros has now been promised by donors, which include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and United States.

"Sahel countries are confronting the dangers of terrorism, extremism, illegal trafficking and drug trafficking," Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said in a joint statement.

"In this regard, we are pleased with the support of President Erdogan's support for the G5 Sahel in the efforts he is making to face up to these dangers," he added.

The force is intended to become fully operational in mid-2018, and will serve alongside France's 4,000 troops in the area as well as the UN's 12,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping operation in Mali.

However, until now only the 50 million euros of the money pledged has been made available, and Sahel leaders have warned it is needed urgently to deal with an influx of Islamic State (IS) group fighters driven out of Libya and Syria.

The Turkish leader spent several hours in Mauritania to sign several cooperation deals in the fishing, agriculture, tourism, energy and mining sectors.

Erdogan, flanked by a group of businessmen in the first visit by a Turkish president to the conservative West African nation, said he looked forward to "mutual benefits" for the two countries with more investment in the private sector.

An infrequent visitor to Europe while ties are strained with the West, Erdogan has made repeated trips to Africa since becoming president in 2014.

He headed later for Senegal, the third stop on a four-nation African tour, also including Algeria and Mali, which aims at further boosting Turkey's influence on the continent.