UN envoy urges sanctions on Sahel drug traffickers

Malian Foreign Affairs Minister Abdoulaye Diop asked the UN Security Council for the creation of a new international regional security force (AFP Photo/TOBIAS SCHWARZ)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The United Nations should impose sanctions on drug traffickers financing jihadist groups in the Sahel region of Africa, a UN envoy said Wednesday.

Hiroute Guebre Sellassie told the UN Security Council that a committee tasked with imposing sanctions on Al-Qaeda-linked groups and individuals should have the authority to blacklist drug dealers.

"This trade finances terror and instability, and must be choked if our efforts are to be successful," said Guebre Sellassie.

The sanctions committee set up by the council has the authority to impose an assets freeze and travel ban on individuals and groups whose actions are seen as a threat to peace and security.

Islamist militants in Mali, southern Algeria and other parts of West Africa have long been involved in the trafficking of weapons, drugs, cigarettes and humans to finance their jihadist campaign.

Drug cartels from Latin America and elsewhere seeking access to Europe are ready to make hefty payments to armed groups to ensure safe passage of convoys carrying narcotics.

Mali's Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop told a UN meeting in September that drug trafficking was fueling the conflict in northern Mali.

Northern Mali fell under the control of Tuareg rebels and jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in mid-2012 before they were beaten back by a French-led operation in early 2013.

Diop said a peace deal signed this year for northern Mali would face major hurdles unless the narcotics traffickers were put out of business.