Five members of the security forces were killed in roadside bomb attacks in eastern Burkina Faso at the weekend, officials said on Monday, March 18.
A police officer and a soldier were killed on Saturday when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Kompienga province, a security official said, AFP reported.
Burkina Faso’s AIB news agency reported unnamed sources as saying a “gendarme and a red beret” were on a motorcycle when it was struck in Kabonga, around 80 km (50 miles) from Fada N’Gourma in Gourma province, the largest town in the region.
Infowakat reported security sources as saying those killed on the motorcycle were a member of the Special Intervention Unit of the National Gendarmerie and an army special forces soldier.
The two personnel were part of a patrol attached to Operation Otapuanu – Lightning – a security operation in the East and Center-East regions launched on March 8 aimed at “neutralizing terrorists and destroying hiding places in forests in the region,” according to the authorities.
Late on Sunday, three soldiers were killed in the same area also by a roadside IED, AFP reported another official as saying. Another person who was in the vehicle was injured and taken to hospital, the official said.
The incident followed heavy strikes conducted as part of Operation Otapuanu, Infowakat reported an unnamed security source as saying.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso has been battling an escalating wave of attacks over the last three years, beginning in the North region near the border with Mali.
The country lies in the heart of the sprawling, impoverished Sahel, on the southern rim of the Sahara.
Attacks have spread to the East region, near the border with Togo, Benin and Niger, and to a lesser extent, the west of the country.
Most attacks are attributed to the jihadist group Ansar ul Islam, which emerged near the Mali border in December 2016, and to the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM), which has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Both civilians and security forces have paid a heavy price, with the death toll now standing at more than 300 since 2015.
Attacks using IEDs began in August 2018 and have claimed more than 60 lives, according to a toll compiled by AFP.
The East region was hit with an upsurge in violence in September, with improvized explosive device attacks on vehicles in Gourma, Kompienga and Komondjari provinces, including one in October near Kabonga in which a soldier was killed and another injured. Violence reduced after Burkinabe and French airstrikes in September and October, but there have been more incidents since November.
On December 31, Burkina Faso declared a state of emergency in provinces within seven of the country’s 13 administrative regions after 10 gendarmes were killed near the border with Mali on December 27.
Five days earlier, three soldiers were killed when their vehicle was struck by a roadside IED between Fada and Kompienbiga. Four other soldiers were injured.
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore dismissed the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces in January, replacing him with newly promoted Brigadier General Moise Miningou. Kabore later replaced the defense and security ministers during a reshuffle, and overhauled the army command in February.
With reporting from AFP