Minute of silence at United Nations for 89 Niger troops

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"The heads of state. underscored the need for greater cooperation in implementing the current initiatives in the Sahel and a stronger global commitment", the leaders said after a summit in Pau, southwest France. The attack is claimed by Islamic State-allied militants.

But first, Macron asks African heads of state to answer a key question: "Do you want us there?"

Héni Nsaibia, a researcher at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), told Middle East Eye that it would be "difficult" for Macron to quell anti-French sentiment "as long people keep dying at this pace".

France, the former colonial power, has about 4,500 troops already operating in the region, an arid expanse just below the Sahara desert.

"The Pau summit is a turning point in our military strategy", declared the French leader during a press conference at Pau castle, hours after presiding over a wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial for several French soldiers who died in Mali last November.

Macron has been on the defensive for the past few weeks. In a visit last month to Cote d'Ivoire, he rejected accusations that France's involvement in the region is motivated by imperialist or economic purposes.

Last year, only $300 million of $400 million pledged by the global community in cash and material support to the Sahel was delivered, according to the French presidency.

France and five West African states agreed on Monday to combine their military forces under one command structure to fight a growing Islamist militancy in the Sahel region, with Paris committing an extra 220 troops.

Macron hit back at such statements in December, saying he can not have troops on the ground if Sahelian leaders appear to endorse anti-French sentiments.

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Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger Mauritania make up the G5 Sahel group that are working with France against the threat of extremists in the region.

But "that's not the favorite scenario", he said.

Such criticism had riled French officials, not least after 13 soldiers were killed in a helicopter collision in Mali last month while pursuing militant fighters, the deadliest toll for the French military in almost four decades.

Alongside the military expenditures are development initiatives, as well as the latest P3S plan announced at the G7 summit hosted by France at Biarritz in August.

They include a raid last month that killed 71 soldiers at another military outpost west of Chinagodrar, believed to be the biggest attack on the Nigerian military.

Niger authorities said at least 63 militants were eliminated during the attack. Another French military action killed 33 extremists in central Mali. It provides intelligence, logistical and drone support for France's forces.

"Symbolizing this modification, it absolutely was therefore determined that "this new framework will take the form and the name of a" Coalition for the Sahel", combining the nations of this G5 Sahel, France - through Operation Barkhane and its particular other types obligations - the lovers now dedicated, along with most of the nations and companies which will wish to subscribe to it ".

But their standing has slipped as the security situation deteriorated.

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