U.S. creates new envoy position to counter rising terrorism in Sahel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has created a special envoy for Africa’s Sahel region, a State Department spokesman said on Friday, to counter rising violence from groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State are expanding their foothold.

Envoy Peter Pham, started his new role earlier this week, the spokesman said. He has been serving as U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa since November 2018.

“Sahel is one of the places where the situation is getting worse in the continent,” the spokesman said.

Security has progressively worsened in the Sahel, an arid region of West Africa, just below the Sahara desert, with militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State strengthening their foothold across the region, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking ethnic violence.

Former colonial power France intervened in 2013 to drive back militants who had seized northern Mali the previous year. Fighters have since regrouped and spread. Over the past year, militants have stepped up attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in November warned that there was growing concern over Islamic State in West Africa and called on the global coalition against Islamic State to focus on Sahel.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Sandra Maler and Alistair Bell

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