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US General Warns of 'Wildfire of Terrorism' Tearing Through Africa

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A senior U.S. general warned Friday that a “wildfire of terrorism” is sweeping across a band of Africa. He spoke at the close of U.S.-led military exercises with American, African and European troops.

The annual African Lion war games, which lasted nearly two weeks, stretched across Morocco, a key U.S. ally, with smaller parts held in Tunisia and Senegal.

Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, head of the U.S. Africa Command, praised the work accomplished in the joint operations and painted a dark picture of threats besetting parts of Africa.

“I am concerned about the security situation across a band of Africa,” from the Sahel region in the west to the Horn of Africa, Townsend told reporters.

He noted deadly attacks by al-Qaida- and Islamic State-linked jihadis and al-Shabab. “All of them are on the march,” he said.

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African neighbors are helping governments deal with the threat, but, he added, “all of that does not seem to be sufficient enough to stop what I call … [the] wildfire of terrorism that’s sweeping that region.”

African Lion saw more than 7,000 troops from seven countries and NATO carry out air, land and sea exercises together.

“It has helped our interoperability, our joint capabilities, and provided readiness and a good opportunity to build cohesion across the forces,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew Rohling, commander of the U.S. Army’s Southern European Task Force Africa. He spoke Friday in the desert town of Tantan.

There was a hitch at the start, with Spain withdrawing from the war games citing budgetary reasons. Media reports attributed the move to Spain’s poor relations with Morocco.

The participating countries in African Lion were the U.S., Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Italy, the Netherlands and Britain. Observers also attended from countries including Egypt, Qatar, Niger and Mali.

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