Around 40 people, many of them civilian volunteers with the army, have been killed in suspected jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso, local sources and security officials said on Monday.
In the northern region of Sahel, around 25 people were killed in two assaults on Saturday, including 13 members of the VDP volunteers, a leader of the force told AFP.
In Kompienga, near Burkina Faso’s southeastern border with Togo and Benin, about 15 civilians were killed on Saturday when their convoy was attacked while under VDP escort, a security source in the region said.
A local inhabitant said three VDP volunteers also died in this attack, and called for help for the wounded, which he said numbered nearly a dozen.
In another raid overnight Saturday, assailants carried out a coordinated attack on police and gendarmes’ posts in Faramana, near the frontier with Mali, causing two wounded, a security source said.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso has been battered by jihadist raids since 2015, when insurgents began mounting cross-border attacks from Mali.
More than 2,000 people have died and almost two million fled their homes. Mutinous troops, angered at mounting losses, ousted elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore in January.
The new strongman, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, says tackling the violence and restoring security is his top priority. After several weeks of relative calm after the coup, jihadist attacks resumed, and scores of civilians and members of the security forces have died.
Some of the heaviest losses have been suffered by the Volunteers for the Defence of the Fatherland (VDP), a civilian auxiliary force set up in December 2019 to take over some basic security duties from the army.
Recruits are given two weeks’ military training and then work alongside the military, typically carrying out surveillance, information-gathering or escort duties. A security source said there had been a “series of attacks which have mainly targeted Volunteers.”
Of the two latest assaults in the north, one occurred at Guessel, where “around 20 people, including eight VDP” were killed, while the other took place at Markoye, where five volunteers and one civilian died, the VDP officer said.
The latest attack came a week after an ambush in the north in which 10 volunteers were killed, along with two civilians.