G8 seeks Sahel anti-terrorism progress at Mali meet, Sahel countries ask for ban on ransom payments

Security experts from G8 nations met in Mali Wednesday to try to improve anti-terrorism coordination in Africa’s Sahel zone, but the absence of Algerian officials underscored the lack of unity in the region. Canada is leading the meeting, which has set up an action group for fighting terrorism, known as GACT. The body intends to help information-sharing and improve training in the region. The meeting was also attended by officials from Switzerland, Spain, the European Union and Australia.

At the same time a group of African and Arab governments is proposing an international ban on ransom payments by governments – perhaps involving sanctions against countries who break it. That ban is especially crucial, they say, when confronting al-Qaeda in North Africa or the al-Shabab Islamic militants in Somalia, who are heavily dependent on kidnapping to finance their operations. The idea of a ransom ban was discussed late last month in closed-door meetings in Geneva on the sidelines of the U.N.’s Council for Human Rights session. Mattei said E.U. countries want to keep the issue of hostage taking out
of the U.N. human-rights council. “These things have always been dealt
with very discreetly,” he said.


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