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Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger signed a mutual defense pact over the weekend, pledging to help each other against armed rebellions and external aggression in the wake of coups in each of the three countries, Al Jazeera reported.
Known as the Alliance of Sahel States, the pact binds the signatory parties – all three ruled by military governments – to assist each other in the event of an attack on any one of them.
Malian officials said the alliance will be “a combination of military and economic efforts” between them, adding that their top priority is to fight terrorism.
The security situation in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger is dismal: The Sahel region has been grappling with armed rebellions and Islamist insurgents for more than a decade.
All three states were members of the France-backed G5 Sahel Alliance Joint Force with Chad and Mauritania, launched in 2017 to tackle armed groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State groups.
But since 2020, the same three countries have suffered coups, with Niger the most recent to experience a military takeover.
The Economic Community of West African States regional bloc has warned it would intervene militarily in Niger if the military government doesn’t relinquish power.
Mali and Burkina Faso have warned that such intervention would amount to a “declaration of war” against them, too.
Meanwhile, relations between the three Sahel countries and France have deteriorated following the takeovers. France has withdrawn its troops from Mali and Burkina Faso, and currently remains in a tense standoff with Niger’s military government.
On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron said France’s ambassador to Niger is “literally being held hostage at the French embassy,” CNN noted.
Following their July coup, Niger’s junta ordered France to withdraw its troops and its ambassador – although Paris has refused to recognize the new military authority.