US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday commenced a visit to Niger where he held a meeting with former jihadists who have been rehabilitated through a vocational training programme backed by US funding.
Mr. Blinken described it as a model for the region, which has been beset by attacks by Islamist militants.
Africa Today News, New York reports that the visit is actually the first-ever visit to Niger by a US secretary of state, and US officials said his arrival was a show of support for President Mohamed Bazoum, who has allowed Western militaries to operate from his country.
Neighbours Mali and Burkina Faso have kicked out French troops and replaced them with Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group.
The US has described Wagner as a destabilising force and designated it an international criminal organisation.
Read Also: 5,000 Soldiers Recruited By Burkina Faso To Fight Jihadists
BBC senior Africa correspondent Anne Soy says the group’s presence in the Sahel complicates joint efforts to tackle extremist violence, which threatens to spread south towards the gulf of Guinea
Mr. Blinken is due to meet President Bazoum later on Thursday evening.
In another report, authorities in Burkina Faso on Thursday announced a recruitment drive for 5,000 soldiers to serve in the army for at least five years to aid the country in its fight against jihadists.
This is the third time in less than a year that the Burkinabe army has organised such a drive. In April 2022, 3,000 soldiers were recruited, with the process launched again in October.