At least forty-one people had been killed in an ambush carried out by armed terrorist groups against a column of civilian fighters from the homeland defence volunteers (VDP), in Burkina Faso’s northern Lorum province, government spokesman Alkassoum Maiga announced in a statement.
The incident took place on Thursday. According to the same source, the identification of the victims is still underway by the national gendarmerie, Xinhua news agency reported.
Prime Minister Lassina Zerbo paid tribute to one of the VDP’s well-known leaders Ladji Yoro, who died in the ambush. It is suspected that Islamists are behind this latest attack.
While no group has yet claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack, a number of armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have been fighting government forces in the Sahel region. Burkina Faso has also been hit by terror attacks in recent years perpetrated by these terrorist groups – since 2015, terrorist attacks have killed over 2,000 people and displaced over one million others in the West African nation.
The al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group JNIM (Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, aka Nusrat al-Islam), which originated in Mali, is active in the north and northwest of Burkina Faso, while the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) is mainly active in the east and in the border region of neighboring Niger.
An attack by al-Qaeda affiliated jihadists in November killed 49 military officers and at least four civilians. That attack fueled anger against both the government in Ouagadougou (capital of Burkina Faso) as well as the French military forces that support it. As a result, Prime Minister Christophe Dabire was forced to resign earlier this month. There have also been calls for President Roch Marc Christian Kabore to quit.
The Sahel is the semiarid region of western and north-central Africa extending from Senegal eastward to Sudan. It forms a transitional zone between the arid Sahara desert to the north and the belt of humid savannas (grassy plains) to the south. The Sahel stretches from the Atlantic Ocean eastward through northern Senegal, southern Mauritania, the great bend of the Niger River in Mali, Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), southern Niger, northeastern Nigeria, south-central Chad, and into Sudan.
The region of Africa to the north of Sahel is almost completely Muslim and that to the south is predominantly Christian, and most of the conflicts today in Africa are between Islamist militias/terrorists and Christian-controlled governments who are usually backed by the West.
Muslims comprise around 62% of the total population of Burkina Faso, with Christians at 30% and the rest mostly follow indigenous African religion. Burkina Faso was a French colony until 1960. Although it is technically a democracy, it has seen many military coups. Its longest ruling President, Blaise Compaore, ruled for 27 years and came to power through a military coup backed by France.
(With IANS inputs)