ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST - Security ministers of four West African countries on Thursday pledged to improve cooperation in fighting terrorism plaguing the region. Dozens of locals and foreigners have died in hotel attacks in recent months.
Ministers from Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Ivory Coast ended a two-day meeting here Thursday by agreeing to improve how they share intelligence and coordinate their national security services, as well as to standardize legislation for better border controls. The meeting was called in the wake of the terrorist raids in all the countries except Senegal.
Hamed Bakayoko, the Ivorian minister of interior and security, said the countries had collaborated before but want to work together more closely.
"We were all fearing these attacks. Now we are in the heart" of them, Bakayoko said. "So our situation has changed. That’s why we want to go further in our strategy of global response to a global threat."
Improved border control sought
The ministers also agreed to push West African countries to implement a biometric identity card system to better track people within the region.
"We should not think that we are well enough prepared and that there will be no more problem," said Mali’s security minister, Salif Traoré. "… We need to learn lessons of what has been happening."
Jihadist group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for several attacks since November. Then, terrorists struck a tourist hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako, killing 20 people. A January attack on a hotel in the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou left 30 dead. And on March 13, militants besieged a beach resort in Grand Bassam, the Ivory Coast's former capital, leaving at least 19 dead.
Senegal, unscathed but wary
Senegal hasn’t suffered a recent attack, but Interior Minister Abdoulaye Diallo, said his country quickly would implement measures to thwart terrorism. "We are going to go very, very fast," he said, "because the threat is taking shape, becoming clear."
The ministers also have agreed to raise public awareness about the need for vigilance and for cooperating with security services to anticipate and monitor religious radicalism.