Al-Qaeda affiliate claims responsibility for June attack in Burkina Faso

The attack on June 11 was one of the deadliest suffered by the West African nation’s army.

Soldiers from Burkina Faso patrol on the road of Gorgadji in sahel area, Burkina Faso
Soldiers from Burkina Faso patrol in the country's Sahel region [File: Luc Gnago/Reuters]

An armed group linked to al-Qaeda, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), has claimed responsibility for what it said was an attack on June 11 that killed more than 100 Burkina Faso soldiers in the Mansila area near the border with Niger, the SITE Intelligence Group said.

On Sunday, SITE quoted a JNIM statement as saying that five days ago “fighters stormed a military post in the town, where they killed 107 soldiers and took control of the site”.

Several videos shared online by JNIM showed raging gunfire around the army base. Another video showed a display of ammunition and dozens of weapons, and at least seven captured Burkina Faso soldiers.

June’s reported attack has been one of the deadliest suffered by the West African Sahel nation’s army.

Ulf Laessing, head of the Sahel programme at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, told Al Jazeera that the government is trying to fight the armed groups but has not recruited professional soldiers to do so.

“They recruited 50,000 volunteers, many of whom got only a short period of training. So they’re kind of vulnerable to losses and it is not very efficient, unfortunately. Almost every day now, there are incidents like this,” he said.

“Right now you have 50-60 percent of [Burkina Faso’s] territory which is outside government control … The government is trying hard, they’re buying weapons, they have a military partnership with Russia but they’re not very successful.”

Niger and Mali are also struggling to contain fighting linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS). The unrest is also threatening the stability of the Sahel region as the armed groups, who control swathes of territories in Burkina Faso and Mali, use them as bases to target southern coastal countries.

Laessing noted that while Mali and Niger have similar problems, their countries are much bigger.

“Burkina Faso is the smallest of the three and very densely populated … Whenever the army attacks, you have many more civilian victims, that makes it so brutal,” he said.

Over more than a decade, armed groups have killed thousands and displaced more than two million in Burkina Faso.

Moreover, the country has topped the recent Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) list of the world’s most neglected displacement crises.

The violence killed more than 8,400 people last year, double the number of deaths from the previous year, according to the NRC.

About two million civilians were trapped in 36 blockaded towns across Burkina Faso by the end of 2023.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies