UN chief expresses concern about extremism in Sahel region

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — The United Nations secretary-general said Thursday he is deeply concerned by attacks by Islamic extremists in Burkina Faso and West Africa, urging a global response.

Ban Ki-moon spoke after meeting with Burkina Faso's president in the capital, Ouagadougou. Extremists in January attacked a cafe and hotel here, killing at least 30 people in the first such attack in the capital. The violence closely mirrored the siege of an upscale hotel in Bamako, Mali in November that killed 20 people.

"The response to terrorism must be global and conducted in strict compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law," Ban said, expressing condolences to the families of the victims of the attack.

Burkina Faso is a part of a group of five countries working together to combat extremist violence in the Sahel, the region below the Sahara Desert.

"The Sahel countries need to focus on the root causes of instability: poverty, unemployment, social exclusion, discrimination and impunity," he said.

Burkina Faso is recovering from a chaotic transition set up after a popular uprising ousted its longtime leader in 2014, and a short-lived coup in September that led to the disbandment of an elite presidential force.

Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore was elected at the end of November to replace a transitional government.

"I assured the president of the commitment of the United Nations," and its support to a national development plan that will be presented in a few weeks, Ban said, adding that the president is committed to national reconciliation, political dialogue and inclusion of the youth in the country's democracy.

Ban also saluted the memory of nine peacekeepers from Burkina Faso who lost their lives last year while serving for Mali's U.N. mission. Ban travels to Mauritania next.

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