U.S., French leaders pledge expanded counter-terrorism in North Africa

U.S., French leaders pledge expanded counter-terrorism in North Africa
# 26 January 2013 03:29 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. U.S. President Barack Obama and his French counterpart Francois Hollande pledged on Friday to expand efforts in fighting terrorism in North Africa, APA reports quoting AP.

In their phone conversation, the two leaders discussed shared security concerns including Mali, Algeria, Libya and Syria, the White House said.

"President Obama and President Hollande condemned last week's terrorist act in Algeria and affirmed their mutual commitment to countering terrorism more broadly in North Africa," the White House said in a statement.

Al-Qaida-affiliated militants raided a gas complex near In Amenas in eastern Algeria on Jan. 16 and took hostage hundreds of Algerian and foreign workers to avenge Algeria's support for French involvement in the conflict in neighboring Mali.

The Algerian troops launched a three-day rescue operation starting the next day. According to Algerian officials, a total of 37 hostages, including a French citizen, were killed during the operation and seven others are still missing.

On Mali, Obama expressed his support for France's involvement in combating al-Qaida-affiliated militants and extremists running the northern part of the West Africa nation.

"The two leaders emphasized the need to rapidly establish the African-led International Support Mission in Mali," the White House said.

The Obama administration sent some 100 military trainers last week to Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Togo and Ghana -- the nations that are poised to send their troops to Mali.

The U.S. military has begun airlifting French troops and equipment into Mali, as Washington is pushing as well for the restoration of a civilian government in the African nation following a coup in March last year.

On Libya, Obama and Hollande noted the importance of "sustained assistance" to the country as it is working to build effective security sector institutions.

They voiced "strong concern" about the humanitarian crisis affecting not just Syria but also neighboring countries, pledging anew to help achieve a political transition in the Arab country in the absence of President Bashar al-Assad, the White House said.