Seven soldiers and four back-up troops have been killed in two ambushes in Burkina Faso’s troubled north, the army said.
The first attack near the town of Solle on Thursday led to the deaths of two soldiers and four civilian volunteers helping the army while five paramilitary troops perished in another raid the same day at Ouanobe, the army said in a statement received Friday.
The ambushes were staged by “terrorists,” according to the army, using a term to signify jihadist groups active in Burkina Faso’s north.
Nine people were wounded, it said, adding that the bodies of some 20 attackers had been found during clean-up operations.
Weapons, ammunition, transport and communication equipment were also seized or destroyed.
Jihadist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have regularly carried out attacks in northern and eastern Burkina Faso since 2015, killing more than 2,000 people and displacing almost two million.
Unrest linked to jihadist groups also plagues Burkina Faso’s West African neighbours Mali and Niger.
The three land-locked countries rank among the poorest in the world and their armed forces are ill-equipped against a foe skilled at hit-and-run raids, ambushes and planting roadside bombs.
In December 2019, Burkina set up an auxiliary force called the Volunteers for the Defence of the Motherland (VDP), which is among the units that has suffered most losses.
Recruits are given two weeks’ military training and then work alongside the army, typically carrying out surveillance, information-gathering or escort duties.
On January 24, anger at the security forces’ casualties sparked a mutiny in the army, leading to the overthrow of elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore.
The new strongman, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, has declared security to be a priority.
But bloody attacks continue, despite the creation of “dialogue committees” — a bridge-building experiment in which community leaders talk with local jihadists to try to end the violence.
On April 8, 12 soldiers and four VDP members were hit in an attack in northern Burkina.
On April 24, 15 people were killed, including nine soldiers, in a coordinated assault on two units, also in the north, according to army figures.