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Germany's Merkel promises aid to fight jihadists in Burkina Faso

Merkel, who also attended a G5 meeting of Sahel country leaders, is due travel on to Mali and Niger.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Picture: United Nations (UN).

OUAGADOUGOU - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday promised aid to strengthen security in jihadist-hit Burkina Faso after arriving in the West African country.

Merkel, who also attended a G5 meeting of Sahel country leaders, is due travel on to Mali and Niger.

"We talked about the deteriorating security situation and we want to be on the side of Burkina Faso, especially in terms of cooperation on security," Merkel told reporters after a meeting with Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore.

"This is necessary because in the east and north of the country there is a situation where children cannot go to school, where populations seem to live in insecurity," she said.

"We need to end these problems as quickly as possible," she added.

President Kabore said the aid would help Burkina Faso to tackle the closure of schools due to jihadist attacks which have seen teachers forced to flee.

"Germany has announced $51 million in aid which should enable us to take better charge of the security issue in the north and east and take action that will strengthen the resilience of these populations," he said.

'FRAGMENTATION OF LIBYA'

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.

The countries are bound in a French-backed alliance, called the G5 Sahel, to fight jihadism on the southern rim of the Sahara.

After the meeting ended, Merkel said Europe shared responsibility for dealing with the threat.

"It is not only the responsibility of these five states but it is a responsibility that concerns Europe too, because if chaos takes over -- which we want to avoid at all costs -- it also has an impact in other areas," she said.

President Kabore also spoke of the situation in Libya, accusing the West of not listening to Africa.

"We have asked the big nations to take their responsibility to solve the Libyan question. It is clear that the African vision... was swept aside... The solution that was chosen was to get rid of (Libyan leader Moamer) Kadhafi and his ouster has led today to a fragmentation of the country into several sub-groups with large quantities of arms...

"Europe must take a common position, so that we can find a definitive solution which will freeze the supplies to these terrorist groups across Libya," he added.

Burkina Faso has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

Jihadist 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.

Around 4.3 million people have been driven from their homes in the worsening violence that has engulfed the entire Sahel region, including one million over the past year, according to UN humanitarian officials.

Former colonial ruler France has deployed some 4,500 troops in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in a mission codenamed Barkhane to help local forces try to flush out jihadist groups.

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