Togo’s government declared a “state of security emergency” in its northern border region on Monday to give the armed forces more flexibility to deal with the threat of jihadist attacks.
Eight Togolese were killed in May in a northern town near the border with Burkina Faso, in an attack claimed by Mali-based al-Qaeda militants.
Jihadist groups in the Sahel nations have been expanding and increasingly threatening the West African coastal states of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Benin and Togo.
After a ministerial meeting on Monday, the government said a state of security emergency had been declared in the Savannah region, which covers the country’s northernmost provinces.
“It will improve the speed of decision-making and facilitate greater agility for public services and defense and security forces,” the statement said.
Government spokesman Akodah Ayeouadan told reporters the measure would last three months and could be extended by the national assembly.
The Mali-based Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) group claimed responsibility for the attack in May.
Authorities said at the time that eight Togolese soldiers were killed and 13 others wounded.
A senior security source in Togo told AFP that the soldiers were attacked by a group of 60 armed men who arrived on motorcycles.
Togolese troops thwarted an attack in November last year on the northern town of Sanloaga, making the May attack the first to cause casualties.
Neighboring West African state Benin said in May that it was “at war” with terrorism after suffering around 20 attacks, according to the first official count of these attacks.
He said around 10 of his soldiers had been killed so far.
Benin’s first known fatal attack was last December, in which two soldiers were killed near the disputed border with Burkina Faso.
The government responded by announcing a larger military deployment in the north to protect the border.
Armed incursions by jihadists linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) organization from troubled Sahel nations have also threatened Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, raising fears of a push south toward the Gulf of Guinea. .