Four suspected jihadi attacks have left about 30 people dead in Burkina Faso, including 16 volunteers backing up the army, security sources said Friday.
The attacks, which happened on Thursday, were the latest to hit a civilian auxiliary force supporting the military in their seven-year fight against jihadis in the volatile West African nation.
Since 2015, Burkina Faso has been grappling with an insurgency led by jihadis affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that has killed tens of thousands and displaced around 2 million people.
The “first attack targeted an advance party of Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP) in Rakoegtenga,” a town in the northern province of Bam, a VDP official said on condition of anonymity.
Six auxiliaries and a woman died in the attack, he said.
Around 10 people were wounded, some seriously, and were “evacuated to Ouagadougou for appropriate care,” the VDP official said.
He said the second attack killed about 10 auxiliaries and a person in Nayala province in the northwest “in the afternoon when a convoy escorted by auxiliaries and soldiers was ambushed.”
Security sources confirmed two attacks but gave no death toll, referring only to “a number of losses.”
The VDP, set up in December 2019, is made up of civilian volunteers who are given two weeks of military training and then work alongside the army, typically carrying out surveillance, information-gathering or escort duties.
Two other incidents linked to armed jihadi groups were recorded on Thursday, according to other security sources. In the north-central province of Sanmatenga, a joint military and VDP team was targeted in Zincko, one of them said.
“About 10 terrorists were neutralized [killed]. Unfortunately, four civilians were also killed,” the source said.
Later in the evening, gunmen raided the town of Sanaba in Banwa province, killing eight civilians.
Some commentators worry that the poorly trained volunteers are easy targets for jihadis and may dangerously inflame ethnic friction without proper controls.
Late last year, authorities launched a drive to recruit 50,000 VDP — 90,000 signed up — but hundreds of volunteers have died, especially in ambushes or roadside bomb attacks.
Violence targeting security forces and civilians has increased in recent months, especially in northern and eastern regions bordering jihadi-hit Mali and Niger.
The escalating toll unleashed two military coups last year, launched by officers angered at failures to stem the bloodshed.