Niger sacks army chief after deadliest attacks in years

TOPSHOT- Soldiers stand guard at sunset as France's President and Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou take part in a military ceremony at the Martyr Quarter

Suspected Islamic militants attack army outpost in Niger, killing 25 soldiers

The United States wants to reduce its military presence in Africa, Washington's top military officer said, as France hosts Sahel leaders as it seeks to bolster the fight against jihadists in the region.

France now deploys some 4,500 troops in the region, according to the media report.

The leaders agreed to place their troops and resources under a unified command structure, known as the Coalition for the Sahel, in an attempt to destroy the insurgents.

The six leaders also said they hoped the United States would maintain its "crucial support" in combating the Islamist extremists, after a top USA general confirmed Monday that the Pentagon was weighing a troop reduction in Africa.

"I don't belong to a generation that knows colonialism", said the 42-year-old.

President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Burkina Faso has described Macron's recent insistences as "lacking in tact".

The summit was maintained even as Niger faced the most deadly attack of its kind in years on Sunday: 89 soldiers were killed in the Chinegodar camp, near Mali.

Monday's summit in the French city of Pau, home to seven of the 13 soldiers killed in a helicopter collision late previous year, followed large scale protests in Mali over the presence of French troops in the region. "The establishment of the G5 Sahel-France Joint Staff as part of the worldwide coalition for the Sahel will allow our armies to grow in strength and reap convincing results in the fight against terrorism", said Kaboré.

Groups allied to both the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda are active in Niger.

Another 220 French troops will be sent to give fresh momentum to the fight with more European special forces expected to join in the coming months, he said.

The president and other authorities consider the French military presence in the Sahel, through Operation Barkhane, a way of protecting France and Europe. Another French military operation killed 33 extremists in central Mali.

Rights groups, however, have also said that military operations are what is causing increased conflict.

Since that attack, France has launched its first armed drone attack, killing seven extremists in Mali. It was France's worst military loss in nearly four decades.

Although a peace deal was signed, it was never fully implemented, resulting in the formation of new armed groups and an expansion of fighting to central Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

While the Pau summit seemed to smooth the diplomatic friction among heads of state, it remains to be seen how citizens in G5 nations will respond to a further entrenched France.

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