ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast has reinforced security along its northern frontier following recent attacks just across the border in Mali blamed on Islamist insurgents, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.
Armed men attacked and briefly controlled Fakola, a town in Mali’s southern region of Sikasso, close to the border with Ivory Coast, on Sunday. The raid followed a similar attack weeks earlier during which dozens of suspected Islamist militants hit a police station in the nearby town of Misseni.
Spokesman Bruno Kone said after a cabinet meeting in the commercial capital Abidjan that Ivory Coast had been taking specific measures for months to protect it against a spillover of violence from Mali.
“In addition to the regular measures, reinforcements have been made after this threat was judged to be closer,” he said. “We can say that things are being put in place to keep what’s started to happen from going too far.”
Kone declined to give further details, citing the need for operational secrecy. But he said defense ministers were communicating and security had been reinforced on both sides of the border.
“The two armed forces are uniting their efforts all along the border in order to put an end to the terrorists’ schemes,” Diaran Koné, Mali’s defense ministry spokesman, told Reuters. “I don’t want to say more since the operation is under way.”
A spokesperson for Ivory Coast’s United Nations peacekeeping mission said it was also reinforcing its presence with an emphasis on tactical mobility though it was not participating in any operations in the area.
Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa grower and French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy, is emerging from a decade-long political crisis and is now in the midst of an economic revival.
It has enjoyed relative stability since a brief civil war in 2011, having avoided violence related to armed Islamist groups that has affected some of its neighbors to the north in the vast, arid Sahel band.
A French-led military campaign in early 2013 liberated northern Mali from Islamist groups, which had seized control of the area after the Tuareg uprising led to a military coup that plunged the country into chaos.
Insecurity persists however, and though the violence is generally focused on Mali’s desert north, attacks have in recent months crept further south.
Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Angus MacSwan/Ruth Pitchford