French army boss warns of IS takeover in Sahel

The head of the French army says the future of West Africa’s Sahel region rests on what happens in the coming year.

Chief of Staff Francois Lecointre said if chaos was allowed to take root, the Islamic State (IS) group would fill the void.

He said military action alone would not defeat the upsurge of Islamist and other violence in the region – a political solution was also required.

Gen Lecointre defended the presence of 4,500 French troops fighting jihadists in the Sahel and said France would soon be taking the battle to the next level.

Last month, 13 French troops were killed when their helicopters collided in Mali while on a combat operation.

Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania are the the G5 Sahel nations bearing the brunt of attacks by militants linked to IS and al-Qaeda.

The five countries have a counter-insurgency force, supported by the French troops, to fight the militants.

The force was launched four years ago when almost all the attacks by the Islamist militants were in Mali.