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 militants in the Sahel region.

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 terrorist 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.”

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 militant attacks in Sahel states

Since 2015, the West African country has seen an increase in militant 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 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, another militant group, are believed to be responsible for more than 255 deaths over the past three years.

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

Militant 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 militants 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.