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Macron in Mali Sunday for launch of Sahel anti-terror force
French President Emmanuel Macron was due in Mali on Sunday to reaffirm Western backing for a regional anti-jihadist force, as Paris steps up its counter-terror operations in the area.
The G5 Sahel countries - Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- have pledged to fight jihadists on their own soil, as instability and Islamist attacks multiply.
With its base in Sevaré in central Mali, the 5,000-strong G5 Sahel force aims to bolster the 12,000 UN peacekeepers and France's 4,000-strong military operation in the region.
The force is also supposed to tackle smuggling and people-trafficking.
Macron, who visited French troops in northern Mali during his first week in office, will attend a summit with African leaders as the force is formally launched.
He is hoping that the 50 million euros promised to the Sahel force by the European Union will be supplemented by extra support from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States.
On France's prompting, the UN Security Council has backed the creation of the force but only after the original motion was watered down on US insistence to avoid any financial commitment by the world body.