March 5, 2018 / 7:24 PM / 4 months ago

West African leaders vow to fight jihadists after Burkina attacks

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Burkina Faso’s President Mark Roch said his country would fight and defeat militants despite being hit by Islamist insurgents in the capital last week in an attack which 8 people were killed and dozens wounded.

Roche was joined by the presidents of neighbouring Togo and Niger in a show of solidarity with each other and with former colonial master France, whose forces intervened five years ago to stop militants taking over neighbouring Mali.

An al Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility on Saturday for the attacks on the army headquarters and French embassy in Ouagadougou that also killed eight gunmen.

“The fight against terrorism is a long one and in this combat no sacrifice will be too high in the defence of our fatherland,” Marc Roch said.

“Recent events have shaken the Burkinabe people, but I assure you they will remain standing and end terrorism no matter what,” he added.

The double assault highlighted the growing risk from jihadists in the Sahel five years after the French intervention.

France is pinning hopes on the so-called G5 Sahel force — comprising the armies of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad — to enable it to start withdrawing the 4,000 troops it still has stationed in the region.

The G5 permanent council, chaired by Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, met in Ouagadougou on Monday although Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe was the only other president at the meeting.

“Terrorists ... seek to undo our alliance ... They say our allies are foreign troops. For us they are not foreign troops, they are allies fighting for the same cause,” Issoufou said.

Jihadist groups have regrouped since the French intervention in 2013. They have expanded into central Mali, which they have used as a launchpad to hit Burkina Faso, Niger and Ivory Coast.

Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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