In the first joint operation between the two countries, troops from Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast have taken out an Islamic jihadist military base in Alidougou in southern Burkina Faso. The attack was part of Operation “Comoe,” an ongoing effort to stop the spread of Islamic terror that is gripping the region.
Operation “Comoe” is named after a river that separates the two African countries. It was launched earlier in May.
Soldiers killed eight suspected militants and arrested 38 others, 14 in Ivory Coast and 24 in Burkina Faso, according to a statement released by the Ivory Coast’s military. In addition, the joint counter-terrorism operation, supported by helicopter gunships, succeeded in seizing automatic weapons, ammunition, motorcycles, and mobile phones. The statement praised the “perfect coordination between the two armies.”
Burkina Faso is part of the G5 Sahel nations that are battling increasingly violent Islamist insurgent forces in the semi-arid Sahel region. The insurgents are linked to both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
In a separate operation, troops from Burkina Faso claimed to have killed 13 more jihadists in the northern province of Soum.
Islamic jihadists, aligned with either al-Qaeda or the Islamic State, have conducted hundreds of attacks against government and civilian targets in West Africa over the last five years. According to a report by the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Brussels, the terror groups are financing their operations in West Africa and the Sahel by conducting gold mining operations.
Therefore, the jihadists are stepping up attacks on other mining operations. Back in November, five buses traveling to the Boungou mine which is owned by Canadian mining company SEMAFO were attacked by jihadists. Thirty nine people were murdered with 60 others wounded. SEMAFO is now pulling out of the area.
With the violence in the Sahel increasing, seemingly daily, the spread of Islamic jihadism is spreading out to other countries in the region. The fear of the Ivory Coast government is that they, like their neighbors Mali and Niger, will see an uptick in violence. Until now the Ivory Coast has been largely spared (however in 2016, al-Qaeda terrorists killed 19 people at a beach). So, to stench the violence, they’ve committed over 1,000 troops to the ongoing Operation “Comoe” with Burkina Faso. Ivory Coast is not part of the G5 Sahel.
Military analysts believe that the jihadists are using the Comoe National Park, in the northern Ivory Coast, as an avenue of escape after their attacks in Burkina Faso.
Jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso have doubled in the first four months of the year compared to the first few months of 2019, according to Heni Nsaibia, a senior researcher from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. Jihadist from JNIM, a terrorist organization linked to al-Qaeda, are operating in the area.
The French are leading a coalition of European Special Operations troops as part of operation “Takuba.” The troops will be operating as trainers and advisors to the host nation troops in the region. The French have also committed 5,100 troops, mainly in Mali, under “Operation Barkhane.” They are also the backbone of the G5 Sahel coalition.