The jihadist groups that operate across the Sahel share a belief in extreme Islamic ideology and have become known for their brutality - sometimes massacring entire villages, and using rape as a weapon of war. The groups typically work alone but intelligence has suggested increasing levels of co-operation. They include:
Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS)
Islamic State’s Sahelian branch moves fast on motorbikes, launching devastating attacks on villages and military camps in the region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. It is thought to be behind two recent attacks that killed more than 150 soldiers at two military bases in Western Niger.
Nusrat al-Islam (JNIM)
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分 Formed in 2017 out of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb and several other smaller groups - Ansar Dine, Katiba Macina and Al Mourabitoun - Nusrat al-Islam is a powerful alliance spread across Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. It seeks to expel foreign forces, establish a caliphate and enforce Shariah law. In late January, the group killed 20 Malian soldiers near the Mauritanian border.
Ansar ul Islam, Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso’s main homegrown Islamist group is a close ally of JNIM and responsible for much of the chaos spreading across West Africa’s linchpin state. Ansur ul Islam has forced schools to close, leaving hundreds of thousands of children without education and is thought to be behind massacres of hundreds of churchgoers in the last year.
France has over 4,500 troops deployed in the Sahel, where it has been fighting for seven years with special forces aided by airstrikes and helicopter gunships. However, criticism is growing at home and many locals believe that France is secretly exploiting hidden resources in the Sahara. In February, President Macron ordered the deployment of a further 600 troops.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分 The US is an important part of the fight against terror in the Sahel, with an estimated 5,000 troops spread out across Africa and a $110 million drone base near Agadez in Niger. But the Pentagon is considering a ‘full-scale’ withdrawal from West Africa, according to the New York Times. France, which relies on US intelligence and logistics worth about $45 million a year, would be hit hard by any withdrawal.
The UN - Minusma, Mali
The UN has a further 16,000 blue helmets and UN police in Mali on its peacekeeping mission, Minusma. The mission is bogged down and more than 200 people have died since it was launched in 2013, making it one of the deadliest in the UN’s history.
G5 Sahel Joint Force
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分 A 5,000-strong army made up of 1,000 troops each from Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, this force can chase fighters across national borders - but so far it has struggled to get the international funding it needs to operate.
Historically a small player in the Sahel, Britain has made a pivot towards the region and is supporting France with three Chinook helicopters and 90 soldiers. Later this year, 250 long-range reconnaissance troops will be sent to join Minusma in the largest deployment of British soldiers to a peacekeeping mission since the Balkans war.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分The UK is also now a major donor to the region, spending more than £450m over the past five years.
The Gulf States
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and other Gulf states are spending millions of dollars funding Mosques and Imams in the Sahel. The money is thought to be channelled through private actors and countries including Mauritania.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分A little known country on the Atlantic coast of Africa where slavery is endemic, Mauritania leads the G5 Sahel task force - but experts believe it may at the same time have a secret deal with Al Qaeda, encouraging the group to focus attacks elsewhere. When US Navy seals raided Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani hideout in 2011, they found documents showing jihadists had discussed just such a deal, though Mauritanian officials deny any agreement.
Russia has been running a disinformation campaign against French and Western forces in the region. Operatives of the Wagner Group, a mercenary outfit with links to the Kremlin, have also reportedly been seen in trouble-spots.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分 The European Union has spent billions of euros cracking down on the migration routes that crisscross the Sahel - but it has no mandate to engage in combat operations.