Two suspected jihadist attacks killed at least 18 people, including 16 auxiliaries supporting the army, in Burkina Faso, security sources said on Friday.
Thursday’s attacks in the north and northwest of the country were the latest to hit a civilian auxiliary force that supports the military in a seven-year fight against jihadists.
Landlocked Burkina Faso in West Africa is one of the poorest and most volatile nations in the world.
Since 2015, it has been grappling with an insurgency led by jihadists affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group that has killed tens of thousands and displaced around two million people.
Thursday’s “first attack targeted an advance party of Volunteers for the Defence of the Fatherland (VDP) in Rakoegtenga,” a town in the northern province of Bam, a VDP official said.
Six auxiliaries and a woman died in the attack, the same official said.
Around 10 people were wounded, including some seriously, who were “evacuated to Ouagadougou for appropriate care,” the VDP official said.
He said the second attack killed around 10 auxiliaries and a person in Nayala province in the northwest “in the afternoon when a convoy escorted by auxiliaries and soldiers was ambushed on the Siena-Saran road”.
Security sources confirmed two “jihadist attacks” but gave no precise death toll, referring only to “a number of losses”.
The VDP, set up in December 2019, comprises civilian volunteers who are given two weeks’ military training and then work alongside the army, typically carrying out surveillance, information-gathering or escort duties.
Commentators worry that the poorly trained volunteers are easy targets for jihadists — and may dangerously inflame ethnic friction without proper controls.
Last week around 60 women, girls and babies in the northern Djibo region were abducted while gathering wild fruit and other food, investigators have said.
Late last year, authorities launched a drive to recruit 50,000 VDP — 90,000 signed up — but hundreds of volunteers have died, especially in ambushes or roadside bomb attacks.
Violence targeting security forces and civilians has increased in recent months, especially in northern and eastern regions bordering jihadist-hit Mali and Niger.
The escalating toll unleashed two military coups last year, launched by officers angered at failures to stem the bloodshed.
The latest strongman is Captain Ibrahim Traore, who on September 30 ousted Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.
Damiba had seized the helm in January 2022 from the last elected president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore.
On December 29, military prosecutors said they were probing a new attempt to “destabilise” the country.
They said they had arrested a chief warrant officer and a sergeant who according to a whistleblower had been in contact with Lieutenant-Colonel Emmanuel Zoungrana — a prominent officer who had been arrested in January 2022 and released in December.
Egbeyemi was the deputy to former Governor Kayode Fayemi between 2018 and 2022.
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