At least 29 people were killed and six injured in two attacks in northern Burkina Faso on Sunday, September 8, the government said, after an al-Qaeda-linked group warned Sahel states not to support French forces in the region.
One vehicle, transporting people and goods in the Centre-Nord region, “rode over an improvised explosive device in the Barsalogho area, leaving at least 10 passengers dead, most of them tradesmen,” a security source told AFP.
Infowakat reported security and local sources as saying the explosion occurred in Guendbila village between Barsalogho in the Centre-Nord and Foubé in the Sahel region, as the vehicle was returning from a market in Foubé.
In a Sunday statement, Communications Minister Remis Fulgance Dandjinou said that 15 people were killed and six injured in the IED attack between Barsalogho and Guendbila.
“Military reinforcements have been deployed and clearance operations are underway,” Dandjinou said, noting that the attack comes as “important security efforts are underway in this region.”
Meanwhile, around 50 km (30 miles) to the east, 10 drivers of three-wheeler food vans traveling in convoy, were killed by armed attackers, a local official told AFP, adding that the vans were carrying provisions for people displaced by fighting.
In a second statement, Dandjinou said that 14 civilians were killed and “extensive material damage” caused in the attack which he said was “perpetrated by terrorists.”
He said the government “reiterates its willingness to support the organizations and institutions involved in humanitarian action” and that every effort will be made “to ensure that humanitarian convoys in areas affected by terrorist attacks are under security escort.”
On September 5, a Burkina Faso soldier and five assailants were killed in an ambush on an army patrol in Diomsogui in Kelbo department, while in May, gunmen killed a Catholic priest and five churchgoers during Sunday mass in Dablo.
On August 30, one soldier was injured in an attack in Tongomayel, near Soum province capital Djibo. In an August 31 statement, JNIM said its fighters carried out the attack and five days later released images showing a wide range of weapons, ammunition, mobile phones and other equipment that it said were captured in Tongomayel.
The Tongomayel attack came just weeks after Burkina Faso’s worst-ever insurgent attack. On August 19, 24 soldiers were killed and seven others injured in Koutougou, around 65 km northeast of . A security source told AFP that “several dozen terrorists” on motorbikes and in pickup trucks carried out the attack, which they said was “well-prepared and coordinated by several terrorist groups.”
Growing insurgencies in Burkina Faso
One of the poorest countries in the world, former French colony Burkina Faso lies in the heart of the sprawling, impoverished Sahel, on the southern rim of the Sahara desert.
The country has been battling an escalating wave of attacks over the last three years, beginning in the North region near the border with Mali. 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, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) which has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Islamic State-affiliated groups.
Since May, Islamic State has attributed insurgent activities in the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger tri-border area to its West Africa Province affiliate, rather than Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and in a June ISIS propaganda video, ISWAP militants purportedly in Burkina Faso were shown reaffirming their pledge of allegiance to ISIS.
JNIM warns G5 Sahel not to support the “French occupation”
In a September 5 statement, JNIM warned the government of Burkina Faso, and those in G5 Sahel regional group, that attacks against their forces will continue while they support the France-led Operation Barkhane.
The 4,500-strong Barkhane force has mandate for counter-terrorism operations across the Sahel includes personnel from Estonia and helicopters from the United Kingdom. Denmark plans send two helicopters and up to 70 troops to support the force.
Barkhane focuses activity in insurgent-hit Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and troops will work alongside the G5 Sahel Joint Force, a long-planned 4,500-strong joint counter-terrorism force comprising troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Mauritania.
France spearheaded the G5 Sahel initiative, but it has been undermined by lack of training, poor equipment and a shortage of funds. Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres has repeatedly called for regular U.N. funding for the G5 Sahel Joint Force, but the U.S. has pushed back against direct funding.
“The French occupation put together a plan to support the armies of the Sahel region, so that they serve as a shield to repel the strikes of the Mujahideen, to keep the French soldier protected in its strongholds behind those cheap cogs in the wheel,” the JNIM statement said.
“This has forced the mujahideen to each time discipline those hired armies, which we wish to see fighting the occupiers and deterring the aggression on the Muslims, or at least remain neutral. But there is no life for those who do not listen.”
“Burkina Faso would have been prosperous and spared from this war had it not been for the French-backed coup government,” the statement added.
“It is high time for the governments of the Sahel called the “G5″ to re-consider their involvement with the occupier,” it said.
Al-Qaeda-linked militants have also begun to assassinate people seen as collaborating with French forces, according to France 24’s Wassim Nasr.
ECOSWAS counter-terrorism summit
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is due to hold an Extraordinary Summit on Counter-Terrorism for heads of state and government in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou on Saturday.
The meeting will focus on the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin and seeks to build on earlier discussions in Niger between stakeholders on terrorism and inter-communal clashes in the region, which was followed by a meeting of the Chiefs of Defence Staff, Chiefs of Security and Intelligence Services that discussed counter-terrorism.
A counter-terrorism action plan on developed from those meetings is due to be presented to the ECOWAS Council of Ministers Thursday, ahead of the September 14 summit.
After a bilateral meeting ahead of summit, Niger’s President Issoufou Mahamadou and his Mali counterpart Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Saturday discussed a sub-regional and regional approach to tackling terrorism supported by intelligence exchanges, and announced the two states would set up a joint cross-border security committee composed of the ministers of defense, security, foreign affairs, justice and finance and supplemented by representatives of both National Security Councils.
With reporting from AFP