On August 11th, five members of the national security force, the gendarmes, and one civilian were killed when the vehicle they were riding in struck a land mine. The truck was carrying security forces who were escorting miners to an extraction site. Regional governor Ousmane Traoré has accused the numerous jihadist groups that plague the region for the attack and, while no terror group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, strikes on security forces by jihadists in Burkina Faso have been on the rise in recent years.
Instability from the fall of the Compaoré regime in 2014, and the ongoing conflict in Mali, has allowed Islamist groups to set up tactical positions and bases within Burkina Faso. Dense forests, the lack of strong border controls, and an absence of a viable police force all make the region hospitable for terror organizations. This environment has allowed groups like . Since then, Ansarul Islam has conducted at least 78 other attacks.
Ansarul Islam is not alone in the region. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), and Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) are some of the other major organizations that operate in the province. Together, these groups have terrorized the Northern Regions of Burkina Faso over the past few years.
One of the deadliest attacks happened on January 16th, 2016, when heavily armed AQIM operatives stormed the Splendid Hotel and killed at least 25 people. The hotel was commonly used by Westerners and United Nations staff, making it a prime target for the jihadis. In an effort to flex its strength in the region, ISGS conducted a strike on a military outpost along the border with Mali later that year that saw 3 soldiers killed in action. Violence like this has continued with more recent assaults coming at the hands of JNIM back on March 2nd of this year when JNIM conducted simultaneous attacks on the French Embassy and Burkina Faso’s army headquarters. This attack left 18 people dead and over 80 wounded.
It is without a doubt that the conflict within Mali and Burkina Faso are linked to one another. A lack of reliable security forces allows these terror groups to move between Mali and Burkina Faso with impunity. These issues have not been met with silence as Burkina Faso has deployed well over 1,800 soldiers to Mali to combat insurgents; however, the rise of security needs at home does call into question how long this deployment will last. France, having the largest presence of any western power within the region and an interest in maintaining a strategic presence in this part of Africa, has deployed forces in the region before to combat terrorism. To continue these counter terrorism efforts, France will continue to back the governments like Mali and Burkina Faso for the foreseeable future