Western donors pledge over 2bn euros anti-terror aid for Africa's Sahel

The five Sahel countries including Mali have been struggling against jihadist violence and lawlessness

Western donors said Thursday they have pledged 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in funding aimed at preventing terrorism and lawlessness along the southern rim of the Sahara.

The updated pledge total was announced in a final statement from a donors conference held in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott.

"These pledges from our partners broadly cover the overall needs" of around 40 development projects to fight jihadism in the region, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou told reporters earlier.

The five Sahel states -- Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger -- have been struggling against extremism and lawlessness in the Sahel since a jihadist revolt that began with a Tuareg separatist uprising in northern Mali in 2012.

The Sahel Alliance -- which was launched last year and includes the European Union, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the UN Development Programme, Germany, France and six other European countries -- contributed 1.3 billion euros, it said in a statement.

The EU's International Cooperation and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica annnounced a 122 million-euro contribution on Thursday.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Paris would add 220 million euros.

The five Sahel countries had sought 1.9 billion euros to help them fund the Sahel Priority Investment Programme (PIP) for projects in border regions vulnerable to jihadists. They themselves provide 13 percent of that sum.

Governments hope that with an array of projects, including building schools and health centres and improving access to water, they can prevent communities from falling under the influence of extremists.

Jihadism in the region has been fuelled by the chaos that engulfed Libya in 2011, the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

The extremists were largely driven out of Mali in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

The France-backed fledgling African regional force fighting jihadists is also suffering from lack of funding, and shortfalls in equipment and training have led to delays in its operations.

As well as fighting terrorism it tackles smuggling and illegal immigration networks that operate in these vast, remote areas on the Sahara's southern fringe.

A devastating attack in June on the force's headquarters in Mali, claimed by an al-Qaeda-linked group, destroyed the communications room, forcing a brief halt in operations.