Burkina Faso declares state of emergency in north following attacks

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Burkina Faso has declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces, a government spokesman said on Monday, as Islamist groups intensify attacks in areas bordering Mali.

Security has deteriorated in the West African country as jihadists seek to increase their influence across the poorly policed scrublands of the Sahel region just south of the Sahara Desert.

Burkinabe authorities are facing security problems from “the diffuse, cross-border nature of the terrorist threat”, government spokesman Remy Fulgance Dandjinou said following a special meeting of the cabinet.

Last week, ten gendarmes were killed in an attack near the Malian border claimed by Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), an umbrella group for al Qaeda-linked militants in the Sahara.

JNIM claimed responsibility for other attacks this year, including one in the capital Ouagadougou in March that killed about eight security agents and wounded dozens of others.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for a raid on a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou in January 2016 in which 30 people were killed. AQIM merged with other local jihadist groups last year to form JNIM.

Thousands of people have fled their homes as a result of the attacks and reprisals by Burkinabe security forces, Human Rights Watch reported in May.

Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga; Writing by Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Edward McAllister, Richard Balmforth