France to invest $47 million in Sahel counterterrorism training program

France plans to invest 42 million euros ($47 million) to help countries of Africa’s Sahel region prepare to face jihadist attacks similar to those that killed dozens in Paris in 2015, an interior ministry official said on Friday.

The Sahel, a politically fragile region whose remote desert spaces host a medley of jihadist groups, is seen as vulnerable to further attacks after strikes on soft targets in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast earlier this year.

Nearby Senegal, a Western security partner with a long history of stability, has so far been spared.

“In future we will train all the countries of the G5 Sahel and Senegal with 42 million Euros in financing, including 24 million Euros for equipment,” said a spokeswoman for Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve during his visit to Dakar on Friday.

G5 Sahel is a regional security organisation composed of Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania. The investment period is 2017-2022, the spokeswoman added.

French riot control officers from the CRS are currently in Senegal for a month training Senegalese police forces to combat urban attacks on soft targets ahead of the broader programme.

In the simulation exercise watched by Cazeneuve as well as army elites and foreign diplomats, Senegalese police arrived swiftly on the scene after masked jihadists killed three students before holing up with hostages inside a university bus.

The jihadists were killed and the remaining hostages released and given medical treatment in the drill.

“We have reinforced police cooperation so that the first ones on the scene, the specialized forces, can intervene in case of mass murder with a highly efficient response,” said Cazeneuve in a speech shortly after the demonstration.

Former colonial power France retains a military presence in Senegal with 350 soldiers. A much larger force of 3,500 is spread across Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso to hunt down jihadists.

Senegal’s ally the United States has also boosted military cooperation with the country and this year signed a cooperation agreement to ease the deployment of American troops there.

 

Al-Qaeda demands 90 million Euros for French hostages

RFI – March 21, 2011
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) is demanding at least 90 million euros ransom for the release of four French hostages held since September, a source close to mediators indicated. The French citizens were kidnapped in September 2010 in neighbouring Niger, where France has a large stake in uranium mining, and are still being held hostage in the desert.
The kidnappers want at least 90 million euros and the release of Aqim prisoners held in several countries, including France, an anonymous source told the AFP news agency. An abortive rescue attempt resulted in the deaths of two French hostages in January. Three others, including one French citizen, were freed in February.

Second Bomb Threat at Eiffel Tower in Two Weeks

September 28, 2010
Tourists are being allowed back inside the Eiffel Tower after it was briefly evacuated following a bomb threat. It was the second alert in two weeks at the Paris monument. The telephoned threats have come as France is on alert for possible terror attacks on crowded targets.
Last week, National Police Chief Frederic Pechenard said authorities suspect Al Qaeda’s North African branch of plotting a bomb attack on a crowded location in France.That group, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, claimed responsibility for the Sept. 16 abduction of five French nationals and two Africans in northern Niger.

Niger: Thousands Protest Caricature Of Prophet Muhammad

Thousands of Muslims took to the streets of the capital of Niger this week as protests against the publication of controversial cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammad reached West Africa. Organisers said 50,000 people had turned out Tuesday in the dusty streets of Niamey after a call from religious leaders to press the government to cut diplomatic relations with Denmark, where the caricatures were originally published. An IRIN correspondent estimated the turnout at 10,000. Muslim rage has swept Europe and the Middle East after the publication of the caricatures, some showing the prophet wearing a turban resembling a bomb. And Niger’s Muslim leaders dubbed Denmark “an enemy of Islam.” “The amalgam knowingly maintained between Islam and terrorism is simply coarse and unacceptable,” said protester Elhaj Tahir Ousmane. “The provocation was too much, it is necessary to put an end to it by all means.” In northern Nigeria, where some states have adopted Islamic Sharia law, protestors took to the streets on Monday chanting “Allahu Akbar [God is great]” and burning the Danish flag. The caricatures, first published in September, angered Muslims in part because Islam bars any depiction of the image of the Prophet Muhammad. And many Muslims have called for boycotts of Danish goods, or held protests outside Danish facilities. In Niger, security forces looked on as Tuesday’s demonstrations passed off without violence. Ranked by the UN as the world’s poorest country, Niger is 98 percent Muslim and most Nigeriens practice a moderate form of Islam, often infusing local cultural practices into their worship. But in recent years, Nigeriens have become increasingly aware of a rise in fundamentalism, particularly in the east of the country bordering northern Nigeria. The United States military has chosen Niger as one of a handful of countries on the fringes of the Sahara desert for a half-billion-dollar programme for training security personnel in tackling terrorism.