DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegalese police have questioned about 900 people in two regions in the West African nation as part of heightened security operations after recent attacks in Burkina Faso and neighboring Mali, a justice official said Tuesday.
The police operation around the cities of Dakar and Thies started Friday and resulted in the detentions of about 520 people for offenses ranging from holding drugs or counterfeit currency to not having the proper documentation for vehicles, Ministry of Justice spokesman Soro Diop said.
"The police carried out these security measures as part of an operation against the threat of terrorism," Diop said.
Despite Senegal's reputation as a peaceful West African country, Diop warned that residents must stay vigilant.
The assault on a luxury hotel in Bamako, Mali, in November and the January attack on a cafe and hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, show that violent jihadism is moving from its strongholds in the desert further south to hit areas more frequented by Westerners.
Experts say the threat of a major attack in the region below the Sahara Desert known as the Sahel is now permanent.
Senegalese President Macky Sall has warned that extremism has no place in this nation where Muslims and Christians live together peacefully.
In the capital, Dakar, security has been visibly increased — police seem to be out in higher numbers and many vehicles entering the downtown area were stopped and inspected over at least two nights in the past week.
Diop said Senegal has taken increased security measures since the Bamako hotel attack that killed 20 people and those measures will remain in place.
"Security has been reinforced on all levels," he said.