Officials have confirmed that two deadly attacks that occurred in northern Burkina Faso on Thursday resulted in the death of at least 44 people. The villages of Kourakou and Tondobi, which are near the Niger border in the Sahel region, were the targets of the twin attacks.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but officials have attributed them to “armed terrorist groups” that are prevalent in the area, where jihadist violence is common. There are militant groups with ties to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State known to operate in the region.
Rodolphe Sorgho, Lieutenant-Governor of the Sahel region, stated that they neutralized the attackers responsible for the “despicable and barbaric attack.”
We are unclear about how many other villagers were injured in the attacks. Mr Sorgho said “actions to stabilise the area are under way”.
One resident told the AFP news agency that “a large number of terrorists burst into the village” and that he heard gunfire all night long.
“It was on Friday morning that we saw that there were several dozen dead,” he said.
AFP has also reported that the killings were in retaliation for the lynching of two jihadists who had tried to steal cattle a few days earlier.
Protracted Jihadist Insurgencies
Burkina Faso and its neighbours have faced protracted jihadist insurgencies since 2013.
The crisis has killed thousands of people and displaced more than two million. The violence has led to significant political turbulence in the country.
The military – led by Lt Col Paul-Henri Damiba – seized power in the country in January last year, promising an end to the violence.
Capt Ibrahim Traoré removed him in a second coup the following September because he had failed to stamp out the attacks.
Capt Traoré has promised to win back territory from the jihadists, and to hold democratic elections in July 2024.
His new military chief, Col Celestin Simpore, vowed earlier this week to step up a “dynamic offensive” to counter the jihadists.
But Capt Traoré has also requested that French troops leave the country and there has been widespread speculation that he might start working with Russian mercenaries.