UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- The UN envoy for West Africa and the Sahel on Wednesday underscored "a devastating surge" in terrorist attacks against civilians and military targets since July in the region.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, told the UN Security Council that the West Africa and Sahel region has been shaken by unprecedented terrorist violence in recent months.
In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, he said, casualties from terrorist attacks have increased fivefold since 2016, with over 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 alone as compared to an estimated 770 deaths in 2016.
He pointed out that the geographic focus of terrorist attacks has shifted eastward from Mali to Burkina Faso and is increasingly threatening West African coastal states, and that the number of people killed in Burkina Faso has increased from about 80 in 2016 to over 1,800 in 2019.
Chambas noted the terrorist attacks are often deliberate efforts by violent extremists to capture weapons and trafficking routes and engage in other illicit activities, including illegal mining in certain areas that sustain their networks.
The UN envoy noted that terrorism, organized crime and intercommunal violence are often intertwined, stressing "this is especially true in peripheral areas where the state's presence is weak" as in those places extremists provide safety and protection to populations in exchange for loyalty.
Therefore, he stressed counter-terrorism response must focus on gaining the trust and support of local populations.
He also called upon regional and subregional leaders to follow through on their pledges and upon international partners to lend their full support to the implementation of existing mechanisms with regard to counter-terrorism efforts in the region.