France, West Africa step up counterterrorism efforts

PARIS (AP) — Leaders from five West African nations and France have agreed to step up the fight against Islamic extremists in the Sahel region by deploying a new battalion from Chad, maintaining a strong French military presence and gradually building up a European task force. At the end of a two-day summit, the leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania praised the progress over the past year that they said made the implementation of a clear military strategy possible. French President Emmanuel Macron told summit participants that he would maintain the number of French troops in the region at their current level of 5,100 at least until summer.