Seven soldiers and four civilian volunteer troops have been killed in two ambushes in Burkina Faso’s troubled north, the army said.
The first attack near the town of Solle on Thursday led to the deaths of two soldiers and four civilian volunteers helping the army while five paramilitary troops perished in another raid on the same day at Ouanobe, the army said in a statement received Friday.
The ambushes were staged by “terrorists”, according to the army, using a term to signify armed groups active in Burkina Faso’s north.
Nine people were wounded, the army said, adding that the bodies of about 20 attackers had been found during follow-up operations.
The military also seized or destroyed weapons, ammunition and communication devices, the statement said.
Armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have regularly carried out attacks in northern and eastern Burkina Faso since 2015, killing more than 2,000 people and displacing almost two million.
Unrest linked to armed groups also plagues Burkina Faso’s West African neighbours Mali and Niger.
The three land-locked countries rank among the poorest in the world and their armed forces are ill-equipped against a foe skilled at hit-and-run raids, ambushes and planting roadside bombs.
In December 2019, Burkina Faso set up an auxiliary force called the Volunteers for the Defence of the Motherland (VDP), which is among the units that have suffered the most losses.
Recruits are given two weeks of military training and then operate alongside the army, typically carrying out surveillance, information-gathering or escort duties.
On January 24, anger at the number of casualties in the security forces sparked a mutiny, leading to the overthrow of elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore.
The country’s new strongman, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, has declared security to be a priority.
But bloody attacks continue, despite the creation of “dialogue committees” – a bridge-building experiment in which community leaders talk with local fighters to try to end the violence.
On April 24, 15 people were killed, including nine soldiers, in a coordinated assault on two units, also in the north, according to army figures.
“The new attack signals a rising tide of militancy in Burkina Faso’s north and raises concerns about the expanding reach of terrorist groups who are undoubtedly making the junta’s job of securing the country ever more difficult,” said Laith Alkhouri, CEO of Intelonyx Intelligence Advisory, which provides intelligence analysis.