Military exercises with US begin in West Africa
Military exercises bringing together armed forces from Africa and Europe under US supervision began in Burkina Faso on Monday, aimed at reinforcing the continent's fight against extremist groups.
The exercises "will facilitate regional cooperation on security and the fight against terrorist organisations," Anthony Holmes, deputy commander of civilian-military activities for Africom, the US military command for Africa, said in Ouagadougou.
The exercises will run in the Sahel-Saharan region and neighbouring countries of West Africa until May 22.
The Sahel-Saharan area has been a base for several years for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqmi), which has seized Western hostages. It is also a zone plagued with drugs and human trafficking.
About 1,200 soldiers will take part in the exercises, including 600 US Special Forces, and some 400 African and 150 European troops.
Besides the hosts, the other African countries participating in the operation include Algeria, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Chad and Tunisia, with European contingents from Belgium, Spain, France, Britain and the Netherlands.
Burkina Faso's Defence Minister Yero Boly said the exercises would establish a strategy for the countries in the region aimed "at the eradication of terrorism and trans-border criminality of all kinds," he said.
Boly also sought to quash rumours declaring that "Burkina Faso never proposed establishing an American military base or becoming the headquarters for Africom," he told journalists.
Holmes also stated that Africom would remain based in Germany.
Washington had tried to headquarter Africom on the continent when it was created in 2007, but was turned down by several African countries including Algeria and Nigeria.