France to boost military presence in African Sahel region

11th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

France will boost its military presence in the troubled Sahel region of Africa where jihadist groups operate to support the fight against Boko Haram, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters, he said France would "slightly increase" the number of soldiers operating under its Barkhane anti-jihadist operation in the Sahel and reduce armed forces in the Central African Republic "to give us the means to support" the fight against Boko Haram.

Under Barkhane, France already has some 3,000 troops in the region but Paris has insisted it will limit itself to "indirect support" of the widening African effort to combat the growing Boko Haram insurgency.

The radical Islamist group has recently spread its insurgency beyond Nigeria to neighbours Chad and Niger, in addition to further attacks in Cameroon, and those countries have been drawn into the battle to stop the extremists.

Le Drian, who gave no specific troop figures, reiterated Wednesday that Paris had no desire to get dragged into fighting, adding it would continue to provide logistical support and intelligence.

© 2015 AFP

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