THE Pentagon on Thursday restricted U.S. service members’ travel to five West African countries, citing recent militant attacks in the region, U.S. defence officials said.
A spokesman for U.S. Africa Command, Navy Lieutenant Commodore Anthony Falvo, said that the order limits unofficial travel by U.S. military personnel to Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Ghana.
“It is just increased vigilance given the recent events that have happened in that area of the world,’’ Falvo said.
A report says gunmen on Sunday, killed 19 people at a beach-side resort in Ivory Coast.
The attack was claimed by al Qaeda’s North African branch, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
The same group said it was behind a January attack on a hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou that killed 29 people, as well as a November hotel siege in Mali.
According to U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Baldanza, a Pentagon spokeswoman, the order remains in effect until June 30, and does not restrict official travel to the countries involved.
“Given the recent attacks in Western Africa, we felt it prudent to make this decision at this time in an effort to ensure the safety of our personnel,’’ Baldanza said.
U.S. Africa Command has between 1,000 and 1,200 forces on the continent at any one time, mostly in training and support roles to help local security forces combat militants.
Meanwhile, both the European Union and the United States government have condemned, in strongest terms, the terrorist bombing of a mosque on Wednesday, March 16 near Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.
In separate statements, they extended their deepest condolences to the families of the latest victims of what they described as Boko Haram’s senseless brutality.
The US observed that Boko Haram continues to commit vicious attacks against innocent civilians, including children.
It noted that the group has demonstrated repeatedly its disregard for lives of tens of thousands it has killed, raped, and injured and the millions it has displaced in the Lake Chad Basin region.
The United States pledged that it will continue to support those affected by Boko Haram’s violence through ongoing humanitarian aid and victim support services.
It also said that US remained committed to assisting its partners in the Lake Chad Basin region, who are leading the fight to end Boko Haram’s wanton violence and restore peace.
In its statement, the European Union delegation and EU Heads of Mission in Nigeria decried the fact that the attack was carried out on innocent worshippers, and condoled families of victims and the injured.
The EU reaffirmed its full support to the Federal Government and the Nigerian people in the ongoing fight against terrorism.
It hinted that insurgency featured prominently at the ongoing EU-Nigeria Joint Ministerial meeting in Brussels.
According to the statement, “The EU again confirms its full solidarity with the Nigerian government and people in their fight against terrorism in all its forms.”