Burkina Faso Makes Gains in Flurry of Counterterror Operations
Burkina Faso’s military forces are successfully leading counterterror operations with greater frequency.
Burkinabe troops in the five-nation G5 Sahel Joint Force, supported by a company of Soldiers from Niger, recently destroyed a terrorist base in the northern part of the country. Eight motorcycles, cellphones and other equipment were seized in the operation near a drilling zone outside Oursi.
A gendarmerie unit — a military force with law enforcement duties — also “dismantled” a terrorist base near the eastern town of Tanwalbougou, and two terror suspects were arrested in a joint operation with Côte d’Ivoire’s forces to secure their shared 550-kilometer border, Burkina Faso’s Armed Forces chief of staff said in a bulletin.
The arrests were made near a frontier post where about 10 Ivoirian Soldiers were killed in an extremist attack less than two weeks before. Ivoirian officials said the leader of the raid was arrested and many of his subordinates were captured.
In all, Burkinabe forces conducted 260 patrols, 63 reconnaissance missions and 14 aerial operations between June 15 and 21, 2020.
“As we say, ‘It’s the discipline and the cohesion that gives armies their strength,’” Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré said in a June 18 speech to troops in Djibo. “We are aware that despite the efforts made, much remains to be done for our Army in terms of manpower, equipment and creating the conditions to help them fully carry out their missions.”
Burkina Faso has battled an Islamist insurgency since 2015. The northern and eastern parts of the country are most affected by terrorism, which has resulted in more than 1,200 civilian deaths and forced 860,000 people from their homes in five years. During that span, Burkina Faso endured at least 580 attacks by extremists, the majority of which took place in 2019 and 2020.
Extremist violence resulted in 4,000 deaths in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in 2019, according to the United Nations.
There is little evidence that the bloodshed will end soon.
In May, extremists killed two Burkinabe Soldiers and five civilian defense volunteers, ambushing their military patrol in the northern part of the country.
Days later, near Burkina Faso’s border with Côte d’Ivoire, Burkinabe and Ivoirian forces killed eight suspected jihadists and captured 38 in a joint operation. They handed over the captured men — 24 in Burkina Faso and 14 in Côte d’Ivoire — to intelligence services.
Soldiers destroyed a terrorist base in Burkina Faso in that operation and seized arms, ammunition, cellphones and USB keys, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.
Weeks after the Burkina Faso-Côte d’Ivoire operation, extremists killed at least five civilians and five French troops when ambushing a humanitarian convoy in northern Burkina Faso. The same day, terrorists claimed to have killed 25 people at a cattle market in the eastern city of Pama.
The Pama massacre was followed by angry protests from residents worried about their safety. Protesters seeking “an end to violence against civilians” demanded a judicial and administrative investigation into the killings and that a military base be built in the area, according to a report on Lefaso.net, a local news agency.
Kaboré stressed that, despite the terror attacks, the military must avoid civilian casualties as it pursues its mission.
“We have to be discerning, we have to use our skills of investigation, thorough intelligence gathering in order to separate the good seeds from the bad,” he said.
Parce que comme on dit, c’est la discipline et la cohésion qui font la force des armées.
Nous sommes conscients que malgré les efforts qui ont été faits, beaucoup reste à faire, pour notre armée, aussi bien au plan des effectifs, au plan du matériel, au plan des conditions qui doivent leur permettre d’assurer pleinement les missions.