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Africa, Arab defence ministers focus on 'terrorism' in Egypt meet

24 March 2016, 13:01

Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt - Defence ministers and officials of 27 African and Arab countries began a two-day meeting in Egypt on Thursday that will explore military and counter-terrorism cooperation.

Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) members were meeting in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh, where the Egyptian military deployed in force to secure the conference.

"The situation in the Sahel-Saharan states is very worrying," said the Nigerien CEN-SAD Secretary General Ibrahim Sani Abani in his opening speech, citing weapons and narcotics trafficking, and jihadist groups such as Boko Haram.

"This phenomenon knows no boundaries and no state can protect only itself, it requires a coordinated and concerted response."

In a statement, he had said the meeting would discuss draft agreements on military cooperation and conflict resolution, and drug and arms trafficking.

Several of the bloc's members, including Egypt, are locked in wars with jihadist groups who have killed thousands of people in attacks and taken control of some territories.

"Terrorism and extremism presents a strong threat that has spread across all continents," Egyptian Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi said in a speech, after calling for a moment of silence for victims of attacks.

In Egypt alone, Islamist militants have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, and bombed a plane carrying Russian tourists that had taken off from Sharm El-Sheikh in October, killing 224 people.

The meeting in Sharm is the fifth CEN-SAD defence ministers' meeting since the bloc's founding in 1998.

The group was founded in part to promote a free trade area among member states.

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