The United Nations envoy for West Africa and the Sahel said the region has experienced “a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets” in recent months.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas told the U.N. Security Council Wednesday that the “unprecedented terrorist violence” has shaken public confidence.
He said terrorist attacks have increased five-fold in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger since 2016 with over 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 compared to an estimated 770 deaths in 2016. In Burkina Faso, deaths rose even more dramatically from about 80 in 2016 to over 1,800 in 2019, he said.
“Most significantly, the geographic focus of terrorist attacks has shifted eastwards from Mali to Burkina Faso and is increasingly threatening West African coastal states,” Chambas said.
The U.N. envoy said terrorist attacks are often “deliberate efforts by violent extremists to capture weapons and trafficking routes” and engage in illicit activities including illegal mining that sustain their operations.
He said governments, local “actors,” regional organizations and the international community are mobilizing to respond to terrorism and violent extremism across West Africa and the Sahel.
Chambas urged leaders in the region to follow through on pledges to tackle terrorism, saying now “is the time for action.”
In a report to the Security Council in late July, U.N. experts said “the most striking international developments” during the first six months of 2019 included “the growing ambition and reach of terrorist groups in the Sahel and West Africa” where fighters from Islamic State and al-Qaida are collaborating to undermine fragile countries.