Thirty people, including 15 soldiers, 11 civilians and four army auxiliaries, were killed Wednesday in attacks by suspected jihadists in northern Burkina Faso, near the border with Niger.
The Burkina Faso government announced the death toll on Thursday. The attacks in the Sahel region are the deadliest since the one that took place in the same region against the village of Solhan, leaving 132 to 160 dead according to sources.
On Wednesday at noon, “the populations of the villages of Dambam, Guevara and Tokabangou,” located about ten kilometers from Markoye near the Niger border, “were the target of an attack by armed terrorist groups resulting in the death of 11 civilians, the carrying away of livestock, and the burning of concessions (properties),” according to a statement from the Defense Ministry.
“Alerted, a unit from the Markoye military detachment,” which also included Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP, civilian auxiliaries), “was immediately deployed to secure the said populations. During the operations, the unit was attacked in the vicinity of the village of Tokabangou,” the ministry said.
“The toll of this attack is 15 soldiers and four VDP dead, one soldier injured and more than a dozen terrorists neutralized,” the statement said.
According to the Ministry of Defense, “the area is currently under the control of military units and the counter-offensive to find the attackers is continuing with air and ground means”.
A fifth VDP was also killed in a separate attack in Pensa, in the North Central region.
Created in December 2019, the VDPs operate alongside the army in surveillance, information and protection missions after 14 days of military training.
They also act as trackers and are often engaged in combat at the cost of heavy casualties, with more than 200 deaths in their ranks since 2020, according to an AFP count.
– Angry demonstrations –
Burkina Faso has faced regular and deadly jihadist attacks since 2015, particularly in the northern and eastern regions near Mali and Niger, which also face deadly actions by armed jihadists.
These attacks, often coupled with ambushes and attributed to jihadist groups affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) group and al-Qaeda, have killed more than 1,500 people and forced more than 1.3 million to flee their homes.
In late July, a Burkinabe soldier and “several dozen” jihadists were killed in an army operation to secure the Madjoari area in eastern Burkina Faso, according to the Burkinabe army headquarters.
At least ten people, including seven VIPs, were also killed in mid-July in an attack in northern Burkina Faso.
The deadliest attack in Burkina Faso since 2015 was the one in Solhan, a village in the Sahel region that was targeted on the night of June 4-5. Gunmen – including “young people aged 12 to 14” according to the authorities – killed at least 132 people there, according to the government, 160 according to local sources.
Thousands of Burkinabè demonstrated in anger against the violence after the Solhan attack, denouncing “the government’s inaction.
Faced with this anger, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who has been in power since 2015 and was re-elected in 2020 on the promise of bringing peace to his country, announced at the end of June that he had dismissed the Ministers of Defense and Security, deciding to assume the post of Defense himself.