New commander for West African anti-jihadist force

616

A West African military force tasked with countering Islamist militants replaced its commander after a deadly attack on its headquarters last month, a spokesman for the G5 Sahel force said.

Mauritanian General Hanena Ould Sidi was chosen during an African Union summit to replace Mali’s Didier Dacko, G5 spokesman Abdoul Salam Diagana said.

The force includes troops from Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Diagana told Reuters the change was in response to the June 29 attack on G5 headquarters in central Mali, which killed five people and was claimed by a local al Qaeda affiliate. Dacko commanded the force for the past year as it launched operations.

Chadian General Oumar Bikimo was chosen as Sidi’s deputy at the African Union summit in Mauritania, Diagana added.

The G5, meant to comprise 5,000 troops eventually, is seen by principal backer France as part of its strategy to draw down its own 4,000 troops spread across the semi-arid Sahel.

The G5 struggled to halt a wave of attacks by jihadi groups in recent months, including one in northern Mali that killed four civilians and wounded four French soldiers.



French Defence Minister Florence Parly is visiting the region to discuss the G5 and France’s own Barkhane mission.