Security forces in northern Burkina Faso face deadly assault while aiding displaced residents.
In a tragic and devastating incident, Burkina Faso’s security forces suffered a severe blow as 53 members were killed during an attack by suspected jihadists in the northern region of the country.
This attack, which took place on Monday, left 17 soldiers and 36 civilian volunteers for the army dead while repelling the assailants, according to a statement released by the army general staff.
The unit targeted in this assault had been deployed to the town of Koumbri in Yatenga province, where their mission was to assist in the resettlement of residents who had been displaced from the area by jihadist violence over two years ago.
The attack also resulted in approximately 30 members of the security forces sustaining injuries. The army reported that several attackers were “neutralized” in a counter-operation, with their combat equipment destroyed. Ongoing operations are still in progress within the affected area.
#Burkina 🇧🇫 | ⚠️Terrible attack, On 04/09, during the night, between 3.47am and 9am, #JNIM attacked the #SDF detachment of #Koumbri near #Mali 🇲🇱.
🔴 The toll is said to be 50 dead and 40 wounded on the SDF side.
🔵According to sources, the #FAMa intervened with air support. pic.twitter.com/Du5Q0lbtlR
— Djibril from WAMAPS (@WamapsENG) September 5, 2023
A Region Plagued by Instability
Burkina Faso, a nation plagued by persistent instability, experienced two military coups in the past year. These coups were driven by growing frustration with the government’s inability to quell the jihadist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives, paralleling the situations in neighboring Mali and Niger.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional organization, swiftly condemned the attack. In a statement, ECOWAS expressed shock over the deaths of soldiers and civilian volunteers and condemned the “terrorist attacks.” The organization also expressed its solidarity with the Burkinabe people.
However, it’s important to note that Burkina Faso was already suspended from ECOWAS earlier this year following the military’s seizure of power, adding another layer of complexity to the already dire situation.
Rising Toll of Jihadist Attacks
Since 2015, Burkina Faso has endured a relentless wave of jihadist attacks, with over 16,000 casualties, including civilians, troops, and police, according to data compiled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).
Alarmingly, more than 5,000 deaths have occurred just this year alone. The crisis has also forced more than two million people to flee their homes within Burkina Faso, constituting one of the most severe internal displacement crises in Africa.
This recent tragedy follows a string of attacks in Burkina Faso. On June 26, 31 soldiers and 40 auxiliaries lost their lives in three separate attacks in the Centre-North province.
In August, two attacks in the Centre-East province claimed the lives of five police officers and approximately 20 others. While the authorities claim to have “neutralized” more than 65 jihadists between August 7 and September 1, the security situation remains precarious.
Who’s Navigating the Complex Diplomatic Relations at the Helm?
At the helm of Burkina Faso’s leadership is Captain Ibrahim Traore, who assumed power in September 2022 at the age of just 34, making him the world’s youngest leader outside of royalty. He has vowed to restore democracy in Burkina Faso and has set a target for presidential elections to be held by July 2024.
Burkina Faso's interim leader Ibrahim Traore plans to return the country to civilian rule by 2024. pic.twitter.com/8AAZkHktob
— Africa Archives ™ (@Africa_Archives) September 6, 2023
However, Traore’s leadership has faced considerable challenges. Relations with France, which had been providing support to Burkina Faso’s under-equipped army, deteriorated after the military takeover, leading French forces to withdraw from the country in January. In a bid to strengthen his government’s standing, Traore recently engaged in talks with a Russian delegation to explore development and military cooperation.
Furthermore, Burkina Faso’s foreign minister, Olivia Rouamba, held discussions in Tehran with President Ebrahim Raissi on Monday, expressing hopes for “stronger bilateral cooperation” with Iran.
Volunteers On the Frontlines and their Urgent Need for Stability
Numerous Volunteers for the Defence of the Fatherland (VDP) were among the casualties in this latest attack. These civilians undergo two weeks of military training and work closely with the army, often engaged in surveillance, information-gathering, and escort duties.
As Burkina Faso continues to grapple with instability and violence, the international community’s attention remains firmly fixed on the nation’s plight.
With a growing death toll and a population subjected to displacement and insecurity, the urgent need for effective measures to counter the jihadist insurgency and restore stability in Burkina Faso is undeniable.