ACCRA, May 5 (Xinhua) -- At least 16,726 people died in violent extremism in West Africa over the past three years, said a senior Ghanaian official Thursday.
Dominic Nitiwul, Ghana's Minister for Defence, said this during the opening of the two-day extraordinary meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff in the Ghanaian capital.
Over the past three years, there have been 5,306 terror-related attacks within the subregion, claiming over 16,726 lives, with several thousand injuries and millions displaced, Nitiwul said.
He added that more than 840 attacks had taken place in the first three months of 2022 alone, with insecurity from armed groups and criminal networks on the ascendency.
He also touched on the rise in maritime crimes, including piracy bedeviling the Gulf of Guinea maritime corridor and the increase in cross-border crimes.
To overcome these, Nitiwul said there was the need to go beyond the business-as-usual approach to subregional security and adopt a more integrated and collaborative approach in dealing with the scourge of violence in West Africa.
Nitiwul urged the security chiefs to create the necessary atmosphere of collaboration for more intelligence sharing to better monitor militants and armed groups who were also exchanging information across borders.
"We need concrete steps and actions to galvanize support for the countries currently fighting maritime insecurity, the scourge of terrorism, and violent extremism," he said.
Francis Awagbe Behanzin, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, opened the meeting on behalf of the president of the ECOWAS Commission.
The two-day meeting was part of efforts by ECOWAS to devise strategies to rein in violent extremism and the rise of military coups in the subregion. ■