France to host Sahel summit

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

Suspected Islamists kill 25 soldiers in Niger: government statement

A peace deal was signed in 2015 but was never completely implemented and new armed groups emerged and expanded to central Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

But despite the creation and the presence of 4,500 French soldiers and more than 14,000 United Nations peacekeepers, the jihadist groups have stepped up their attacks.

The French summit is expected to call for broader worldwide 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".

Criticised in France for allowing French troops to get bogged down and facing growing hostility in West Africa for failing to restore stability, Macron has become increasingly frustrated, but the French leader appeared satisfied with Monday's results. Macron's concerns were echoed by French defense minister Florence Parly, who backed the president late previous year in his quest for "clarity" from the African leaders about France's involvement.

"The Pau summit is a turning point in our military strategy", declared the French leader during a press conference at Pau castle, hours after presiding over a wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial for several French soldiers who died in Mali last November.

The violence is spreading most rapidly in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, which endure routine assaults from extremist groups seeking to gain territory, analysts say, and threatens to destabilize a region with one of the youngest populations on Earth.

But first, Macron asks African heads of state to answer a key question: "Do you want us there?"

The moment of silence came on the same day that French President Emmanuel Macron hosts counterparts from the five Sahel countries to reassess their joint fight against the extremists.

On Thursday, 89 soldiers were killed in an attack on a military camp at Chinegodar near Niger's border with Mali, the worst militant attack in its history.

"While groups such as Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) are small compared to groups such as al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, we're observing that the subregional insurgency in the Sahel is transforming and moving from being more cell/matrix-based into a mass-insurgency".

The incident comes amid ongoing clashes between ISIS affiliate Boko Haram and government forces across West Africa. Beginning this year, "Task Force Takuba" is added to the response, bringing together special forces from European nations including Estonia.

The French military operation, France's largest overseas mission, enjoys broad support at home.

Since 2013, when France intervened Mali, the security situation deteriorated. The latest deaths led to the dismissal of the Nigerien defense minister on Monday.

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