Eight civilian members of an auxiliary force in Burkina Faso’s anti-jihadist campaign died in an ambush on Wednesday in the north and others were still missing, security and local sources said.
“A patrol of the VDP (Volunteers for the Defense of the Motherland) fell into an ambush in the Gorgadji area,” a security source told AFP. “There are at least eight dead among the volunteers and others still missing.”
A local official confirmed the ambush, saying: “We have sustained losses during an attack.”
The patrol was sent out after cattle were stolen by armed men on Tuesday, the official added.
Reinforcements had been sent in after the ambush to hunt for the killers and reassure local people, another security source said.
Burkina Faso, a poor, landlocked country in the heart of the Sahel, has been fighting a ruthless Islamist insurgency.
The VDP was set up in December 2019 to help the beleaguered military fight jihadists, but it has suffered major casualties.
The volunteers are given two weeks’ military training, and then work alongside the security forces, typically carrying out surveillance, information-gathering, or escort duties.
According to an AFP tally, well over 200 VDP members have died since January 2020, nearly 50 of them this year.
Burkina Faso has endured almost daily attacks, sometimes intertwined with community conflicts, since jihadists from neighboring Mali launched raids in 2015.
More than 1,300 people have died and at least a million people have abandoned their homes, according to estimates.