U.N. experts monitoring the implementation of sanctions on Mali warned this month that the conflict-wracked West African nation and its neighbors "face intensified terrorist threats," especially in the border area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
The experts' interim report said the militant group calling itself the official al-Qaida branch in Mali and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara extremist group have declared that "jihadist groups are working together" to fight the 5,000 troops.
In January, the U.N. Security Council threatened sanctions against parties in Mali who obstruct or delay the full implementation of the peace deal agreed to by Mali's government, Tuareg separatists and armed groups.
The experts concluded after their Mali visit in February that "all parties to the agreement are responsible for delays."
Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 uprising prompted mutinous soldiers to overthrow the country's president. The power vacuum that was created ultimately led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led war that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013. But insurgents remain active in the region.
The U.N. panel said "insecurity continues to rage and is now shifting increasingly toward the center of the country" from the north.
Across the country, it said, "an estimated 4.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance."
The experts said the extremist group Jama Nusrat Ul-Islam wa Al-Muslimin, which positioned itself as the al-Qaida branch in Mali, and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara have claimed attacks not only in Mali but in Niger, in the Tahoua and Tillaberi regions.
In Burkina Faso, the experts said, "the terrorist group Ansar Al-Islam has multiplied attacks in the last months against the government, including two attacks against Burkinabe security forces in Soum province on Dec. 2 and Dec. 21."
Beasley told the Security Council last week that the number of people around the world in danger of dying unless they get food urgently surged to 124 million last year — mainly because "people won't stop shooting at each other."
He said by video link that almost 32 million of those acutely hungry people live in four conflict-wracked countries: Somalia, Yemen, South Sudan and northeastern Nigeria, where famine was averted last year.
Globally, Beasley said, 60 percent of the 815 million chronically hungry people who don't know where their next meal is coming from live in conflict areas.
In this photo provided by the World Food Program, World Food Program executive director David Beasley talks to children at a refugee center at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh in early October, 2017. Beasley says the collapse of the Islamic State movement’s self-described caliphate across Syria and Iraq has led to extremists mounting a recruitment drive in sub-Sahara Africa which threatens to trigger a new European migrant crisis. World Food Program via AP Saikat Mojumder