A deadly terrorist raid on Sunday in the war-torn tri-border region of Burkina Faso has killed 32 people. The raid comes just days after seven security force personnel were killed in another attack.
The raid took place before dawn on a military police base near the village of Inata in the restive province of Soum. The military police unit targeted was a provisional one that had been placed near the Inata gold mine.
Initially, Burkinabe officials said the death toll was 19 officers and one civilian but was expected to rise due to several officers having sustained severe wounds. Now, the death toll, after a release by security officials, sits at 28 officers and four civilians.
The attack is the deadliest suffered by Burkina Faso troops since an insurgency by Islamist militants began in 2015.
Unidentified gunmen attacked another military police unit in the Kelbo region of northern Burkina Faso on Sunday. Troops were able to rally and push the assailants back, the government said in its statement.
“This morning a detachment of the gendarmerie suffered a cowardly and barbaric attack. They held their position,” Security Minister Maxime Kone said on Sunday about the attack in Kelbo.
A report from Reuters said that the post had run out of food and had resorted to slaughtering local animals for the past two weeks in order to eat, in a message sent by the post commander to his higher headquarters.
A Failed Detente
While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack in Soum, the tri-border area of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso has been the scene of horrific violence. Islamic jihadists, aligned with both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS), have carried out attacks on military personnel and civilians in towns where the governments have little local presence.
The attacks continue despite an increase in UN peacekeeping operations and an influx of Western military forces operating under a French-led coalition.
Burkina Faso had seen a steady increase in violence until 2020. Then the government, led by President Roch Kabore, negotiated with terrorist groups, and reached a sort of detente. However, as frequently happens with terrorists, the agreement only lasted until the terrorist groups regrouped, re-armed, and felt strong enough to take on the government again.
While the G5 Sahel governments have grouped together, the Kabore administration has been slow to accept military assistance from Western nations, despite its security forces struggling against the jihadist terrorist groups. Perhaps, after the two latest deadly attacks, the Burkinabe government will rethink that policy, especially as the tenuous peace that it had negotiated is seemingly falling apart.
For now, President Kabore, the first Burkinabe president without a military background, has decreed three days of national mourning for the victims of the attack.
However, Eddie Komboïgo, Burkina Faso’s opposition leader, has called for nationwide protests next month if the security situation deteriorates further. Kabore ran successfully for re-election as president on a platform that stressed the fight against the jihadists and an improvement of the security situation.