Burkinabe militants

Militancy has been on the increase in northern Burkina Faso since late 2016. Over a dozen attacks have been attributed to or claimed by a new militant group, Ansaroul Islam, and operational in the Soum province which borders Mali and Niger. The group is led by Boureïma Dicko, a Peulh (Fulani) imam from the northern town of Djibo. The group has repeatedly targeted security force personnel, as well as municipal assets. Burkina Faso has long suffered the insecurity linked to events in neighbouring Mali; armed groups conduct occasional cross-border attacks, targeting Burkinabe troops and security outposts in the northern provinces of Oudalan, Soum and Loroum. The north is economically important due to the number of active mining operations, primarily for gold. As elsewhere in West Africa, economic and political neglect in the north appears to have crystallised opposition along ethnic and religious lines. Dicko calls for a Peulh emirate in the north, echoing the separatist – Fulani ideology of the Macina Liberation Front, a Mali-based militant group which has since joined a powerful regional militant coalition known as the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, which counts al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghrib among it’s ranks. Meanwhile, Ansaroul Islam have reportedly made overtures to the Islamic State (IS). Authorities have since launched military operations targeting the Ansaroul Islam group, including Operation Panga in March. This was followed by an offensive involving Operation Barkhane in late April against militant camps in the Fhero forest located along Burkina Faso’s Soum province and Mali’s Mopti region. These military operations have resulted a decline in attacks, allowing schools and other state institutions to reopen in recent weeks; however, intelligence failures due to poor civilian-military relations, along with the porous border with unstable Mali which allows easy movement by armed groups, means the security environment may be undermined with little to no warning. Retaliatory attacks on official targets in Soum are also possible. Meanwhile, the G5 Sahel countries-Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso in February announced increased security cooperation through a joint force to combat terrorism and drug-trafficking in the Sahel. Initiatives include joint training and intelligence sharing, and the formation of rapid intervention forces.

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