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After ditching ECOWAS, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali move to form joint military force to fight insurgents

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Exit of Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso will cost us $1bn — ECOWAS

The junta in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso have announced plan to form a joint military force to fight jihadist threats.

The three countries who recently ditched ECOWAS, announced the formation of the force following talks in the Nigerien capital Niamey.

Moussa Salaou Barmou, Niger’s army chief announced it would be operational as soon as possible, without giving details of its size, BBC reported.

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Groups linked to both Islamic State and al-Qaeda have killed thousands of people in the region in the past year.

The military regimes in the three countries have become increasingly close allies in recent months.

Last September, they formed a mutual defence pact known as the Alliance of Sahel States (AES), withdrawing from an international force, G5, that was set up to fight Islamists in the region.

Violence in West Africa’s Sahel region has worsened in recent years despite the military governments’ promises to deal with the decade-long conflict with jihadist groups.

The three countries have all severed their ties with France, the former colonial power, which for years had a strong military presence across the Sahel.

A UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, Minusma, that had been in place for over a decade was also ordered by the country’s leaders to withdraw “without delay”, and completed the exit in December.

The military regimes have strengthened ties with Russia, which has moved in to fill the void.

They have also announced they were leaving the West African economic bloc Ecowas.

They had already been suspended from the bloc, which has been urging the military regimes to ensure a quick return to democratic rule and imposed travel and economic sanctions on them.

Some of the sanctions were last month lifted or eased as Ecowas pushed for dialogue, according to the BBC.

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