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Burkina Faso: Islamist attacks prompt state of emergency

December 31, 2018

A deadly ambush in a northern province on the border to Mali has prompted Burkina Faso's president to declare a state of emergency. Burkina Faso is battling increased attacks by Islamist militants in the Sahel region.

Gendarmes ride a truck after being deployed following an overnight attack in Burkina Faso
Image: Reuters/H. Daniex

Officials in Burkina Faso announced Monday that President Roch Marc Christian Kabore is declaring a state of emergency in northern provinces following intensified attacks from Islamist groups in the area.

"The president has decided to declare a state of emergency in certain provinces of Burkina Faso," Communications Minister Remis Fulgance Dandjinou said after a special cabinet meeting. "He has also given instructions for specific security measures across the country."

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore will issue a presidential decree detailing the state of emergencyImage: Reuters/A. Sotunde

Names of the provinces where the state of emergency will go into effect will be named in a forthcoming presidential decree. The measure gives security forces extra powers to search homes and restrict freedom of movement.

Intensified Islamist attacks in Sahel states

Since 2015, the West African country has seen an increase in jihadi attacks on its northern border to Mali. Most recently, ten gendarmes were killed last week in a gunfire ambush in the Sourou province while responding to a school blaze. The al-Qaida linked umbrella militant group known as Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) claimed responsibility for the attack.

JNIM claimed responsibility for four other attacks that took place in 2018, including one in the capital Ouagadougou in March that killed 8 security officials and wounded scores more. JNIM and Ansarul Islam, another jihadi group, are believed to be responsible for more than 255 deaths over the past three years.

People stare as smoke from an explosion fills the sky in Ouagadougou
An explosion in Ouagadougou in March targeted the French EmbassyImage: Getty Images/AFP/A. Ouoba

"The diffuse, cross-border nature of the terrorist threat" poses a security threat to authorities in Burkina Faso, Dandjinou added.

Jihadi groups are attempting to increase their influence across the semi-arid Sahel region just south of the Sahara desert. The attacks and the reprisals by Burkinabe security forces have caused thousands to flee their homes, Human Rights Watch reported in May.

In 2013, France intervened militarily in Mali, Burkina Faso's neighbor, in an attempt to push back Islamists who had seized territory in the former French colony.

Last week Burkina Faso's security minister, Clement Sawadogo, had urged people to be cautious during New Year's Eve celebrations on December 31.

cmb/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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