Burkina Faso suffers worst attack in years

An armed group has killed more than a hundred civilians in the northern province of Yagha, close to the border with Niger
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AP/LEKAN OYEKANMI  -   Terrorist activity in the Sahel region is on the rise

The Sahel area has once again been rocked by terrorism. The growing instability in the region has claimed the lives of thousands of civilians in recent months. Burkina Faso was the latest country to suffer from this scourge that affects all nations in the region. Approximately more than 100 people have been killed by an armed group in the town of Solhan, located in the north of the country near the border with Niger. The high number of civilians makes it the worst attack Burkina Faso has suffered in five years. In addition to the killings, the terrorists burned down houses and shops. So far, no group has claimed responsibility.

"The security and defence forces are working hard to find and neutralise those responsible for this despicable act," said Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. He has decreed three days of official mourning for the victims of this "barbaric" attack.

Burkina Faso has been in the throes of jihadist violence since 2015, when terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State began attacking and gaining influence in the Sahel region. The first incident in the country was the kidnapping of a Romanian security guard in a mine in Tambao, a northern region. It is this area, bordering Mali and Niger, that is the most unstable and insecure, although terror has begun to spread to other regions of the country.

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REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER - A member of the Malian Armed Forces (FAMA) during Operation Barkhane in Ndaki, Mali, 29 July 2019.

The rise of terrorism in the Sahel has also caused a serious displacement crisis in the country. Burkina Faso has more than one million internal refugees, and an estimated 20,000 people from Mali have fled jihadism.

Burkina Faso has suffered a series of terrorist attacks in recent months, but this is the deadliest to date. Last May, at least 30 people were killed in an eastern province. In April, during a week-long succession of attacks, 50 civilians were killed, including Spanish journalists David Beriain and Roberto Fraile. March was also a particularly deadly month, as 137 citizens were killed in the south of the country in similar attacks.

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AFP/BOUREIMA HAMA - People stand in the rubble of a damaged house in Niger.

The terrorist acts are attributed to Ansarul Islman, a Burkinabe jihadist group; the Sahel jihadist coalition Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM); and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS). The latter two organisations also target Mali and Niger.

Mali has also been hit by jihadist violence in recent hours. At least 11 civilians have been killed in Menaka, in the east of the country. In this area, as in Agharangabo, the government has little control, so armed groups take advantage of the insecurity to commit terrorist acts.

Macron insists on 'international mobilisation' to fight terrorism in the Sahel

France, through Operation Barkhane, is one of the nations with the largest presence in the African region. This mission aims to fight and eradicate jihadism in the region. Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly urged his partners in the international community to become more involved in this fight. Last year, Paris increased the number of troops from 600 to 5,100 in the face of rising terrorism.

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AFP/DOMINIQUE FAGET - French soldiers of the Operation Barkhane detachment at the French base in the northern Malian town of Gao.

The French military is working alongside the national forces of the countries in the region, although France has recently suspended military cooperation with Mali following the May coup d'état. In mid-May, President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Oune were arrested by military authorities. However, the French government has assured that it will keep its troops in the country, even if it "temporarily halts joint operations with Malian forces".