Seventeen suspected jihadists and five members of a civil defense militia have been killed in an attack in northern Burkina Faso, security and government sources told AFP Thursday.
“Armed men arriving on about 20 motorbikes attacked the VDP (defense militia) camp in Bilakoka,” located in Burkina’s northern region of Sahel bordering Mali and Niger, on Wednesday, a government official told AFP.
“The volunteers repelled the attack, neutralizing 17 terrorists. Five VDP members also lost their lives during the attack.”
A security source confirmed the toll and said the armed forces were carrying out a “sweep” and securing the area.
Burkina Faso, a landlocked and arid Sahel nation, has been battling attacks since 2015 from forces that include the Group to Support Islam and Muslims, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).
Raids and ambushes have been concentrated in the north and east close to the borders with Mali and Niger, both of which have also faced deadly violence by jihadists.
More than 1,500 people In Burkina have died and more than 1.3 million have fled their homes, in a population of around 20 million.
In December 2019, the government set up the VDP — the French initials for Volunteers for the Defense of the Motherland — to provide support for the beleaguered armed forces.
Civilian volunteers are given 14 days’ military training and then do auxiliary work such as surveillance and information gathering.
But the toll among this force has been very high. Around 250 have been killed, according to an AFP tally.
On Tuesday, two people, one of them a VDP member, were killed in Gayeri in the eastern province of Komondjari, near the border with Niger.