The United States released a statement on Thursday addressing the increase of alleged human rights abuses by state security forces in West Africa and the Sahel. According to the statement, the U.S. was “deeply concerned” about these allegations and said that they must be addressed or else assistance from Washington could be at risk.

Part of these allegations is a report of mass executions in Burkina Faso released earlier this week by Human Rights Watch. The United States is also monitoring similar reports of human rights abuses in Mali where violence has wracked the nation.

“Continued human rights violations and abuses risk undermining the state’s credibility with its citizens, serve as a recruiting tool for terrorists, exacerbate the existing humanitarian crisis, and undermine efforts to bring security and stability to the region,” said Morgan Ortagus, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State. 

The U.S. State Department welcomed the talks held earlier this week by the leaders of the G5 Sahel nations along with France and Spain in Nouakchott. It also praised Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and his counterparts of the G5 Sahel nations for their willingness to investigate allegations of abuses by security forces. It also urged the countries to hold “anyone found guilty of human rights violations or abuses” accountable. 

“The United States has made clear that our assistance to the region must not be used in any way that contributes to violations or abuses of human rights and that without prompt and thorough action to address these allegations, U.S. security assistance may be at risk,” Ortagus added.

The countries that comprise the G5 Sahel include Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad; all of them are former French colonies. The Sahel is a semi-arid region of western and north-central Africa that stretches Senegal to Sudan. It is bordered to the north by the Sahara desert.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly urged the leaders of the G5 Sahel to uphold human rights during military operations in the region. “Political leaders of the Sahel countries are perfectly aware of what’s at stake,” Parly said this week. “They see the gap widening each time atrocities are committed, between the people and the authorities,” she added.

Violence has spread throughout the region since Islamic jihadists launched a terror campaign in Mali in 2012. The violence spread over into Niger and Burkina Faso and has crept in Chad and Cameroon, displacing hundreds of thousands. One of the key aspects of the region is that the countries’ borders are porous and largely unguarded; this has increased the mobility of the numerous terror groups.