(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged 46 million euros ($51 million) to help Burkina Faso fight Islamic extremism.
Mrs Merkel, who is on a three-nation tour in West Africa this week, made the announcement late on Wednesday. While in the capital of Ouagadougou, she attended a summit with presidents from the countries making up the G5 Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Burkina Faso’s security situation has rapidly deteriorated over the past several years, particularly along the volatile northern border with Mali.
After her visit to Ouagadougou, Mrs Merkel plans to visit German soldiers who are stationed in Gao, Mali, as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there. She also plans to visit Niger during the trip.
The presidents of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou and Chad, Idriss Deby Itno were also in Ouagadougou to attend the G5 meeting.
Terrorism is set to be top of the agenda at the summit after a series of attacks in Burkina Faso. The country has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of militant groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and ISIS in the Greater Sahara.
Militant raids began in 2015 in the north before targeting the capital Ouagadougou and other regions, notably in the east.
A total of 350 people have been killed since 2015 – mainly in hit-and-run raids – according to an AFP tally.
On Sunday, gunmen killed six people, including a pastor, in an attack on a Christian church in the country’s north.
The violence took place Sunday in the village of Silgadji, not far from the volatile border with Mali.
Urbain Kabore, the communications director for the Sahel region of Burkina Faso, said on Monday that the six people were slain after Sunday services.
There was no claim of responsibility.
Authorities said that in a separate incident in the east of Burkina Faso, five teachers were shot to death Friday.
Extremists have also targeted foreigners, abducting and killing a Canadian geologist earlier this year.