Burkina Faso soldiers killed in ‘barbaric attack’

At least 10 soldiers have been killed by militants in northern Burkina Faso, the military has said.

Many others were wounded in the attack in Koutougou, in Soum province – which borders Mali – and other soldiers are reported missing.

“In reaction to this barbaric attack, a vast air and land search operation is seeking to neutralise the many assailants,” the military statement said.

Islamist violence is increasing in Burkina Faso, with three key Islamist militant groups establishing a front in north and east.

Hundreds of people have been killed so far this year and more than 150,000 have fled their homes because of the attacks spreading across the Sahel region.

In December, a state of emergency was declared in several northern regions, granting security forces extra powers to search homes and restrict freedom of movement.

Recent attacks on churches in northern Burkina Faso are likely to be the work of jihadists whose activities are growing in the region despite a military operation to contain Islamist militancy.

The country’s foreign minister says tackling terrorism has become a fight “for the very survival” of the Sahel region, which incorporates Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The militants have forced 100,000 in Burkina Faso alone to flee their homes in recent months.

Three key Islamist militant groups have established a front in northern and eastern Burkina Faso: Ansarul Islam, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).

One of the most audacious attacks of recent years – the January 2016 siege on a luxury hotel that killed 30 people in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou – was carried out by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has since merged with two other jihadist groups – Ansar Dine and al-Mourabitoun – to form GSIM.

It operates in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso and was behind two other attacks in Ouagadougou – on a café in August 2017 and the French embassy and army headquarters (HQ) in March 2018.

A propaganda video released last month by the Islamic State (IS) group shows the Sahel’s appeal to global jihadism when “brothers” in Burkina Faso and Mali were congratulated for pledging their allegiance. –BBC

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