Mon, Mar 05, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Brazen Burkina Faso skirmishes highlight threat


A woman passes by a sealed-off area around the army headquarters after alleged terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, on Saturday.


Burkina Faso’s leaders urged vigilance on Saturday, a day after brazen Islamic extremist attacks on the army headquarters and French embassy in the capital, which killed eight people. An al-Qaeda-linked group based in neighboring Mali claimed responsibility for the assaults.

It was the third attack on Ouagadougou in just over two years, and it was aimed directly at the army’s central command and the heavily guarded embassy, raising concerns that extremists are growing bolder in their assaults on the West African nation. The attack on the army headquarters narrowly missed a conference of top military leaders, indicating that the extremists might have had inside information.

Previous extremist attacks had been on soft targets of restaurants, which caused a greater loss of civilian lives.

“The decision to actually stage an attack in this area [the army headquarters] where there is a permanent security presence demonstrates the growing confidence and capabilities of terror groups in the region,” said Sean Smith, a West Africa politics senior analyst with Verisk Maplecroft.

Burkina Faso contributes more troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali than other West African nations, making it an extremist target, he said.

The Mauritanian news agency Alakhbar said the militant group Jama Nusrat Ul-Islam wa Al-Muslimin issued a message late on Saturday saying that it was behind the attacks.

The agency often carries claims of responsibility by extremist groups for attacks staged across West Africa.

The agency said the group carried out the dual attacks in Burkina Faso in retaliation for the killing of one of its leaders in a recent raid by French troops.

The formation of the group, also known as JNIM, was announced in a video in March last year as a merger of three extremist groups: al-Qaeda-linked al-Mourabitoun, Ansar Dine and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. It has positioned itself as the al-Qaeda branch in Mali and as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and has claimed attacks not only in Mali, but also in Niger.

Several extremist groups have also vowed to step up the bloodshed in response to the recent deployment of the multinational G5 Sahel force. The 5,000-strong force combines troops from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania to battle extremism in the region.

Islamic extremists have carried out two other large-scale attacks on Ouagadougou in recent years, killing 30 people at a popular cafe in 2016 and 18 more at a Turkish restaurant in August last year.

Friday’s attacks killed at least eight people, including a senior officer, and left more than 80 injured.

Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kabore condemned the violence in a speech broadcast to the nation on Saturday.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing, can justify such indiscriminate fury against the Burkinabe state, its institutions and the brave people who love peace, democracy, justice and progress,” he said.

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