Niger says 89 soldiers killed in attack by extremists

TOPSHOT- Soldiers stand guard at sunset as France's President and Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou take part in a military ceremony at the Martyr Quarter

Suspected Islamic militants attack army outpost in Niger, killing 25 soldiers

France has 4,500 soldiers stationed in the Europe-sized region as part of Operation Barkhane, supporting poorly equipped, impoverished local armies that in 2017 launched the joint anti-jihadist G5 Sahel force.

The December attack spurred leaders of the G5 Sahel nations, Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, to call for closer cooperation and global support in the battle against the Islamist threat.

The summit comes as France's military presence, which began in Mali in 2012, is being questioned by many in the region who chafe at the increasingly prominent role played by a former colonial power.

The new structure, named Coalition for the Sahel, brings the G5 states, French forces and any future troops under a single command. The country is a member of the G5 Sahel force whose members have come under increasing attack from extremists they have been sent to fight.

"Where are the efforts beyond sending more troops and giving more control to the French military?

We need results", Macron said, announcing the reinforcements after the summit with the leaders of Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad.

Macron's adviser didn't rule out a reduction in the number of French troops in the area if the military and political situation doesn't improve in the next six months.

But "that's not the favorite scenario", he said.

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Such criticism had riled French officials, not least after 13 soldiers were killed in a helicopter collision in Mali last month while pursuing militant fighters, the deadliest toll for the French military in almost four decades. It was France's worst military loss in nearly four decades.

In December, Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for an attack on a military camp in Inates, a village in western Niger that left 71 military personnel dead.

Troops in Niger and Mali are fighting to suppress an insurgency.

France established its presence in the Sahel when Mali requested help seven years ago this week.

Since 2013, when France intervened Mali, the security situation deteriorated.

The French summit is expected to call for broader global support for counterterror efforts in the region where the United Nations envoy for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, last week said public confidence has been shaken by the "unprecedented terrorist violence".

Adding to Mr Macron's woes, the United States, which provides logistical support to France's Barkhane force and maintains a drone base in Niger, on Monday signalled it wanted to reduce its military presence in Africa.

The leader of the National Rally party and daughter of French far-right party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen told reporters she was getting ready for the campaign during an event in Nanterre, near Paris, on Thursday, Le Figaro said.

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