Mali on Sunday announced it will be sending reinforcements to the northern city of Timbuktu amid growing concerns about security in the region.

Another 350 police officers, paramilitary gendarmes and soldiers will be deployed, Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga told reporters in Bamako on Saturday on his return from a visit to the area.

While he did not specify when they would arrive, his office said they would be deployed at the beginning of 2019.

Maiga said the government would also set up a new border guard service and increase logistical support for the security forces.

During his visit north, local people told him of robberies and the theft of vehicles which had made the region less secure.

“They are bandits, allied to terrorists who commit these robberies,” Maiga told them.

“Everyone must decide which camp they are in and help the security forces,” he added.

France helped Malian forces stave off a jihadist insurgency that took control of large parts of the troubled north in 2012.

But large swathes of the country remain out of the government’s control, despite a 2015 peace accord designed to isolate the Islamists and the continued presence of French and UN forces in the region.

Since then, attacks have extended to central and southern regions of Mali and over the border into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

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