By Ange Aboa
JACQUEVILLE, Ivory Coast (Reuters) – Ivory Coast and France inaugurated a new counter-terrorism academy in the West African country on Thursday, intended to boost regional capacity to combat a growing Islamist threat.
The International Academy for the Fight Against Terrorism (AILCT), in the outskirts of Ivory Coast’s commercial capital Abidjan, will include a school for government officials, a training centre for special forces, and a research institute.
It comes as Ivory Coast faces increasing attacks from jihadist groups based to the north in Mali and Burkina Faso, who are trying to expand their reach toward the Gulf of Guinea. One soldier was killed in an attack in northern Ivory Coast this week.
“The questions before us are clear: how to fight effectively against terrorist groups that are more mobile than ever… how to prevent them from importing their strategy here,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the academy’s opening.
“Regional states must step up their military cooperation, their security cooperation, and their judicial cooperation,” he said, adding that AILCT will help with this goal.
France has a 5,100-strong counter-terrorism force in the Sahel region, but according to two sources French President Emmanuel Macron is due to announce a troop reduction on Thursday.
Le Drian will travel on Friday to Burkina Faso, where at least 132 civilians were killed last week in the deadliest attack in years, pushing the number of people killed by suspected Islamists in the Sahel to over 500 since January.
(Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)