Armed forces in Burkina Faso have killed a jihadist commander blamed for some of the bloodiest attacks in the country’s troubled north, security sources said Tuesday.
Tidiane Djibrilou Dicko “was neutralized with around 10 other terrorists in an airstrike on May 26,” a source close to military headquarters told AFP, confirming a report by the national press agency AIB.
The attack took place near Tongomayel in Soum province, the source said.
Another security source said Dicko was killed “after being located in the Djibo area (the provincial capital) with several dozen men” as he was preparing to attack a convoy.
Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries of the world, has been grappling with a jihadist insurgency that swept in from neighboring Mali in 2015.
The campaign, led mainly by groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State, has claimed more than 2,000 lives and forced around 1.8 million people to flee their homes.
Dicko was on a most-wanted list of 46 jihadists that the armed forces circulated in early May.
He reputedly had a role in some of the biggest attacks in the north, notably an assault in Silgadji in January 2020 that left more than 40 dead.
He initially was a member of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) but in mid-2021 joined the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), an Al-Qaeda-linked alliance and the biggest jihadist network in the Sahel.
He was at the helm of a GSIM “katiba,” or combat unit, that targeted civilians and armed forces in the Djibo area.
In a statement to AFP, the army said it had carried out a number of offensive operations, using ground forces and air support, on May 27 and 28, killing at least 39 jihadists in Kossi province in the northwest of the country.
The operations, it said, signaled its “increasing power, combined with a reconfiguration of operational arrangements nationally” — a posture, it said, that aimed at placing armed groups under permanent pressure.
The landlocked Sahel state underwent a military coup in January, when disgruntled colonels ousted elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore, accused of incompetence in his handling of the security crisis.
The leader of the junta is Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.
He has declared security to be his top priority, but after a relative lull in violence, a surge in attacks has claimed more than 200 lives.