Jan. 9 (UPI) -- West Africa and the Sahel region are suffering from an unprecedented upsurge in terrorism aimed at military and civilian targets, a top United Nations official said.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, head of the U.N. Office for West Africa and the Sahel told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday the region was under "relentless" attack from terrorists in countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, where terrorism-related casualties have jumped fivefold since 2016.
"The humanitarian consequences are alarming" for the region, which is experiencing "a devastating surge" in jihadist terrorist attacks, he said.
Chambas noted that West Africa and the Sahel, a semi-arid belt stretching 2,400 miles across the breadth of the continent, had seen more than 4,000 deaths in 2019 alone as compared to some 770 three years earlier.
The most significant new development has seen the focus of terrorist attacks shifting eastward from Mali to Burkina Faso, while the West African coastal states are also under a greater threat.
The terrorism wave has uprooted about 500,000 people in the region, a tenfold increase in displacement from recent years.
The U.N. official noted terrorist attacks in the Sahel are often linked to efforts by "violent extremists" to engage in organized criminal activities such as the weapons trade and illegal artisanal mining, flourishing in areas where state control is weak.
Chambas, however, noted that governments, local group and regional organizations are organizing and fighting back to in response to the situation.