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France to appoint Dakar-based anti-terror czar for Sahel

French troops on patrol in northern Mali
French troops on patrol in northern Mali AFP

France is to name an anti-terror czar for the Sahel region, to be based in Dakar, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced on a visit to the Senegalese capital Friday. The Regional Attaché for Internal Security will work to improve intelligence-gathering on armed Islamists in neighbouring Mali and the rest of the region.

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The official will "strengthen teams already on the ground to increase efficiency, notably in the field of intelligence," Valls said at a press conference after meeting his Senegalese counterpart, Abdoulaye Daouda Djallo.

Dossier: War in Mali

A Sahel-wide plan to "fight terrorism" could be run from Dakar, he explained.

Armed Islamist groups still active in Mali have threatened attacks on French interests and on those of African countries that joined the Minusma force it in its offensive in northern Mali this year.

Diallo called for sharing information between France and African countries, pointing out that Senegal has 800 kilometres of border with Mali and Mauritania, rendering the task of preventing jihadists entering the country difficult.

Senegal and France will also work together to fight the illegal drug trade, Valls said.

"Drugs destroy our societies, attack the basis of our democracies," he declared. "That's true in Europe; it's true in Africa."

The Tuareg separatist movement, MNLA, on Thursday surrendered control of two key buildings in Kidal in the north of Mali, despite opposition by some of their members.

The MNLA evacuated the governor's mansion and the headquarters of the local radio station, ORTM, handing the former over to the Malian army and the latter to Minusma, sources said.

RFI reporters Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were murdered just outside Kidal after interviewing an MNLA leader on 2 November.

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