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    Blinken Pitches the US as an Alternative to Russia’s Wagner in Africa’s Troubled Sahel

    Blinken Pitches the US as an Alternative to Russia's Wagner in Africa's Troubled Sahel

    ABUJA, Nigeria — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday pitched the United States as a better security partner for in place of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, which he accused of exploiting coup-hit and conflict-hit nations in the continent's Sahel region.

    Blinken, who is visiting Nigeria as part of an Africa tour to strengthen bilateral relations, said the U.S. will continue to support Nigeria and other regional partners in their efforts to help stabilize the Sahel, the vast region south of the Sahara Desert that Islamic extremist groups have turned into a global terror hot spot as it struggles with a recent spate of coups.

    “We hope it can make a difference in restoring the constitutional order and restoring a critical partner in trying to find security in the region,” Blinken told reporters in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, speaking in particular about Niger, where a coup has threatened years of support by Western and European nations.

    Until Niger's elected President Mohamed Bazoum was deposed by his elite soldiers in July, the country had played a critical role in U.S. counterterrorism activity in the Sahel and was seen as one of the last democratic nations in the region to partner with to counter jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

    But as Niger faced sanctions from neighbors, the West and , its junta severed ties with European nations and turned…

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