OUAGADOUGOU: Fifteen kidnapped civilians found dead on Monday in the west and a dozen members of the security forces killed the same day in the north: violence by suspected jihadists is intensifying in Burkina Faso, which intends to fight them mainly alone.
The deadly actions of groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State began in 2015, but have steadily increased in recent months and are partly behind two coups in Burkina in 2022 .
On Monday, it was in the south-west of the country, near Côte d’Ivoire, that fifteen people were found dead after being kidnapped the day before by suspected jihadists.
Sunday evening, two minibuses had been intercepted in the village of Linguekoro by armed men, according to the governor of the region, Colonel Jean-Charles Somé.
The passengers, eight men and 16 women, “were disembarked” from the vehicles, he said in a statement. Among them, “eight women and a man were released and ordered to walk back to Mangodara”, 30 kilometers from Linguekoro.
The two minibuses “were subsequently set on fire and the other passengers kidnapped”, according to the governor. The bodies of the victims found on Monday show “bullet impacts”, according to him.
Several hundred people demonstrated Tuesday morning in Mangodara to protest against “insecurity” and “impunity” after the discovery of the fifteen bodies, according to residents contacted by AFP.
In mid-January, around 60 women were kidnapped by suspected jihadists in Arbinda, in the north, before being found a few days later.
Gendarmes and Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland (VDP, army auxiliaries) stationed in the locality of Falagountou in the Sahel region (north), also suffered Monday afternoon “a terrorist attack”, according to the ‘army. “The provisional record recorded shows twelve fallen fighters, including two VDP”, according to the staff who also speaks of a civilian killed.
“At least five gendarmes were injured and a dozen others”, missing, are “still wanted”, specifies the army by affirming that, “on the enemy side, about fifteen bodies of terrorists were found during search operations which are still ongoing”.
These kidnappings and attacks attributed to jihadists come ten days after the decision of the Burkinabè government to demand the departure of the 400 French soldiers of the Saber force based in Ouagadougou.
Burkina’s decision is motivated by “the will of the authorities of the transition and of all Burkinabè, to be the primary actors in the reconquest of our territory”, according to government spokesman Jean-Emmanuel Ouédraogo.
“It is not about the end of diplomatic relations between Burkina Faso and France,” he added.
France, a former colonial power in Burkina, is now regularly contested there.
Several thousand people demonstrated on Saturday in support of power in Ouagadougou, where the departure of French troops is welcomed as a return to “sovereignty”.
Since coming to power in September in a putsch, the second in eight months, Captain Ibrahim Traoré and his government have shown their desire to diversify their partnerships in the fight against jihadism.
The new authorities have in recent weeks initiated a rapprochement with Russia where the Prime Minister, Appolinaire Kyélem de Tembela, discreetly visited in December. Russia is “a choice of reason”, according to him.
These latest developments recall the precedent of neighboring Mali: last summer, the ruling junta in Bamako ordered French forces to leave the country after nine years of presence. Mali has at the same time moved closer to Russia. Multiple sources report that the junta brought in the Russian paramilitary group Wagner from the end of 2021, whose actions have been decried in various countries.
Burkina Faso, in particular its northern part, has been confronted since 2015 with attacks by jihadist groups which have left thousands dead and at least two million displaced.