AP NEWS

Macron wraps up a trip to West Africa focusing on security

December 23, 2019 GMT
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French President Emmanuel Macron is welcomed by President Alassane Ouattara upon arrival in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Friday Dec. 20, 2019. Macron is in Ivory Coast for a three-day official visit. (AP Photo/Diomande Ble Blonde)
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French President Emmanuel Macron is welcomed by President Alassane Ouattara upon arrival in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Friday Dec. 20, 2019. Macron is in Ivory Coast for a three-day official visit. (AP Photo/Diomande Ble Blonde)

NIAMEY, Niger (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute Sunday to the victims of Niger’s largest extremist attack in recent memory while on the last stop of a three-day visit to West Africa.

Macron visited the cemetery where 71 Nigerien soldiers were interred after the Dec. 10 attack on a remote army camp.

He also met in the capital of Niamey with President Mahamadou Issoufou to discuss the rising extremist violence in the Sahel; a summit gathering the five countries of the region is scheduled for mid-January in France.

“We need to define much more clearly the military, political and development objectives for the next six, 12 and 18 months,” Macron said.

Issoufou said he hoped the summit would be the occasion to launch a joint call for more international solidarity “so that the Sahel and France are not alone in that fight anymore.”

The summit in the French southern town of Pau was initially scheduled to take place this month this month but it was postponed after the deadly attack by an Islamic State affiliate in Niger.

Earlier Sunday, Macron paid tribute in Ivory Coast to the victims of a 2004 bombing during the country’s civil war that killed nine French soldiers and an American civilian.

Macron and Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, joined by their wives, observed a moment of silence in front of a high school in the city of Bouake that served as a French military base at the time.

Macron said Saturday that the ceremony would mark another step toward reconciliation in Ivory Coast. The country, a former French colony, was split into a rebel-controlled north and a loyalist south during the 2002-2007 war.

The French soldiers and the American civilian were killed during a November 2004 airstrike by the Ivory Coast air force.

France accuses the Belarussian pilot and two Ivorian co-pilots who carried out the bombing of murder and attempted murder. A trial is to begin in France next year but the three defendants will not be there because international warrants for their arrests were never carried out.

The American victim, Robert Carsky, 49, grew up in Syracuse, N.Y. and spent most of his adult life working in West Africa as a soil scientist and crop researcher.

During his visit to Ivory Coast, Macron joined French forces for a holiday meal and met with Ouattara. On Saturday, he announced that French troops killed 33 Islamic extremists in central Mali. France has some 4,500 military personnel stationed throughout West and Central Africa.

The French leader was due to return to France on Sunday night.

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Sylvie Corbet is based in Paris