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In Niger, Scholz vows to support fight against Islamist militants

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz inspects the base of the German armed forces in Tillia, Niger May 23, 2022. REUTERS/Andreas Rinke

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised Niger long-term military and financial support to fight Islamist insurgents across West Africa, during a visit on Monday on his inaugural Africa tour.

Niger has taken on a bigger role hosting European special forces since the deterioration of relations between Western powers and the military junta ruling neighbouring Mali.

Scholz visited 180 soldiers from the German Bundeswehr army training Nigerien special forces at a military camp in Tillia about 80 km (50 miles) from the Malian border.

The mission, which started in 2018, is due to end this year. "Now it will be a matter for us to identify a good follow-up project," Scholz said later in the day during a press conference with Niger President Mohamed Bazoum.

Officials say Germany has been expanding its cooperation with Niger since 2015, partly because of the militant threat and partly because of the routes that take migrants across the West African country's territory towards Europe.

The Bundeswehr remains part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, and the Bundestag lower house of parliament voted on Friday to increase the maximum number of troops there to 14,000 from 1,100 following France's withdrawal.

Scholz visited Senegal on Sunday and was due to fly to South Africa on Monday evening for the final leg of his tour.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke in Niamey; Writing by Sarah Marsh in Berlin; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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