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

A soldier stands guard outside the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso after it was attacked by al-Qaida-linked extremists on January 17, 2016 file photo.
A soldier stands guard outside the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso after it was attacked by al-Qaida-linked extremists on January 17, 2016 file photo. (AP Archive)

Burkina Faso is declaring a state of emergency in provinces grappling with violence, Communications Minister Remis Fulgance Dandjinou said on Monday.

"The president has decided to declare a state of emergency in certain provinces of Burkina Faso. He has also given instructions for specific security measures across the country," Dandjinou said after a cabinet meeting that followed a deadly attack on police.

Ten gendarmes were killed and three wounded on Thursday in an ambush in the northwest of the country, near the border with Mali.

They had been heading to the village of Loroni after a school had been attacked and textbooks torched by armed assailants, a security source told AFP.

The state of emergency applies to a number of provinces that lie within seven of the country's 13 administrative regions, Dandjinou said.

The regions are Hauts-Bassins, Boucle du Mouhoun, Cascades, North and Sahel, in the west and north of the country, and the East and Centre-East regions in the east.

Names of the provinces where the state of emergency is to be applied will be made public in a presidential decree, he said.

A state of emergency gives additional powers to the security forces to carry out searches of homes and to restrict freedom of movement.

Burkina Faso is part of the vast Sahel region and one of the poorest countries in the world.

The region turned into a hotbed of violent extremism and lawlessness after chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, which was followed by an insurgency in northern Mali and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

Militant attacks began in northern Burkina Faso in 2015 but then spread to the east, near the border with Togo and Benin.

Most attacks have been attributed to the group Ansarul Islam, which emerged near the Mali border in December 2016, and to the JNIM, which has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda.

Those groups are believed to be responsible for more than 270 deaths since 2015. The capital Ouagadougou has been hit three times and almost 60 people have died there.

In the past month alone, 24 police, troops and civilians have been killed, according to an AFP toll.

Ten troops killed

In a separate development that underscores the insecurity in the Sahel, Niger on Monday said 10 troops had died in a joint operation with Nigeria against criminal gangs who plague the two countries' border with kidnappings, theft and cattle rustling.

The operation, launched on Saturday, targeted "bandits" in the Maradi region in south-central Niger, Defence Minister Kalla Moutari said.

Five troops from Niger and five Nigerian soldiers died, and several from both countries were wounded, while 11 of the assailants were killed, he said.

It is the biggest death toll since the two countries began a joint crackdown on the gangs in September.

Both Burkina Faso and Niger are members of the "G5 Sahel" – a French-backed scheme meant to restore authority in regions hit by militancy and criminality.

Also bringing in Chad, Mali and Mauritania, the G5 aims at deploying a 5,000-man joint force. But funding, poor equipment and lack of training have proved major hurdles.

Source: AFP