Three days after an assault that claimed the lives of 51 soldiers, suspected jihadists killed at least 15 soldiers in Burkina Faso’s turbulent north, according to security sources.
According to a source, a unit in Tin-Akoff, Oudalan province, close to the Mali border, “came under savage attack” on Monday evening, leaving “approximately 15 dead” and other people still missing.
With air support, the army launched a counterattack that “neutralised… hundreds of terrorists,” the source continued.
A second security force source corroborated the attack and reported 19 dead soldiers and “dozens of missing.”
The massacre occurred as the Sahel region was still in shock following a horrific ambush last Friday near Deou, also in Oudalan province.
According to army statistics, during that assault and its aftermath, 51 soldiers perished, while 160 jihadists were also killed.
More than seven years ago, Mali’s jihadist terrorists started conducting cross-border incursions into the landlocked Sahel state.
According to estimates from NGOs, since then, more than 10,000 civilians, police officers, and soldiers have killed, and more than two million people have fled their homes.
The government has no control over almost 40% of the country’s land area.
Last year, two coups were started by the military’s ire over its inability to change the tide.
Political parties and civic organizations showed their support for the ruling junta hours before word of the most recent attack came.
Zephirin Diabre of the Union for Development and Change said, “In these trying times, I urge the Burkinabe people to cultivate a sense of national unity and assist the transitional authorities in their determination to restore our territorial integrity” (UPC).
Captain Ibrahim Traore, the head of the Junta, acknowledged that the battle against jihadism was “laid with dangers,” but insisted that the government was “determined” to win.
When Traore, 34, assumed leadership in late September with a promise to reclaim territory taken by the jihadists, Friday’s attack on security personnel was the worst against security personnel.
Attacks, however, have increased significantly over the past few weeks; an AFP death toll indicates that since the year’s beginning, more than 200 people have perished.
Political analyst Harouna Traore questioned why it felt like the armed forces were so weak.
“What is the purpose of conducting patrols without aerial surveillance? We now have drones and reconnaissance aircraft, which ought to prevent ambushes, he remarked.
Like its counterpart in Mali, the junta in Burkina Faso has a strained relationship with France, a longtime friend.
A special forces unit of about 400 men stationed close to the country’s capital, Ouagadougou, is being evacuated by France.