Since the summer of 2018 Est Region of Burkina Faso witnessed rapid spread of violence attributed to unidentified militant groups. While most of previous attacks were attributed to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), recent claims by Jama’t Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen (JNIM) of attacks in the region confirm the presence of jihadist groups and the expansion of JNIM operations beyond northern regions on the borders with Mali. For instance, and for the first time, on 29 December 2018 JNIM released statement claiming 30 November 2018 complex attack. The attack carried against mining company escort near Bongou, between Pama and Fado. During same statement JNIM also claimed 22 December 2018 improvised explosive device (IED) attack near Kompienbiga on the road between Fada N’Gourma and Pama, Kompienga Province. Insecurity in Est Region also preventing locals from conducting their usual livelihood activities such as hunting and artisanal gold mining.
Violent attacks against security forces, institutions, and individuals with ties to central government continued in the month of December 2018 and most likely to continue in coming months. Acts of intimidation against civilian population witnessed during December as well and most likely to continue most notably in Sahel, Boucle du Mouhoun, Nord and Est Regions with strong possibility of expansion to other regions.
Nigerien security forces conducted late October and early November operations along the Burkina Faso borders near Torodi, Say Province, Tillabéri Region. Minister of interior pointed out to deteriorated security conditions in the area.
On 30 November Nigerien government extended state of emergency to additional three communes of Tillabéri Region. These communes include Téra, Say, and Torodi. All communes located on the borders with Burkina Faso and especially close to Est Region where there is notable increase of suspected militants activities.
Diffa Region witnessed one major incident by suspected Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP). Additionally, at least 15 girls were taken while the outcome of more than 30 girls taken in the same area over a a year ago remains unknown.
November followed recent trend as acts of violence and intimidation by suspected militant groups Ansaroul Islam and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) continued, if not increased, in Est and Sahel Regions. However this is based on assumptions and modes of operations since no attacks exclusively claimed by both groups. In Fada N’Gourma, Est Region local population staged protests and expressed support and backings to security forces on 02 November. On 08-09 November General Oumarou Sadou visited Fada N’Gourma, Est Region capital and met with administrative authorities and security forces based in the area. He also visited brigades based in Foutouri, Pama, and Kompienga, towns previously been under militants threats.
Since September 18, 2018, a curfew prohibits the movement of motorcycles from 7 pm to 5 am in the Est Region. The circulation of other vehicles is subject to strict controls.
On 01 November, prison guards on strike raided Minister of Justice residence. The government decided on November 14 the dismissal of the ranks of 10 members of the Prison Security Guard unit behind the raid, and suspended the activities of their union office.
On 14 November teachers’ unions suspended classes across Loroum Province, Nord Region after physical beating and abuse of teachers at Toulfé two days earlier. On 19 November another school announced its closure following threats received from militant groups at Kodjena village, Gnagna Province, Est Region.
On 13 November at least 10 bodies recovered after landslide at Basnéré, Soum Province, Sahel Region. Similar tragedy occurred at Kabonga between Fada and Pama, Est Region three weeks earlier where 50 to 100 people gone missing. Security forces reportedly hesitated to assist in fear of militants attacks. Another landslide recorded on 08 November at the gold mining site of Bontioli, Sud-Ouest Region where at least 10 people died.
On 19 November Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed to have been informed about the execution of 14 men detained at Gassel Liddji by Burkinabe Army in Soum Province, Sahel Region. Regional NGO Kisal also claimed that in the same week a total of 38 civilians have been allegedly executed in Soum Province and Burkinabe forces suspected to be behind it. On 22 November, NGO Kisal reported the execution of another 7 suspects arrested by security forces.
Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Burkina Faso launched on November 15 to November 22 a joint security operation called Koudanlgou II in the southern and western areas of Burkina Faso to crackdown transnational crimes, including terrorism, smuggling, and drugs trafficking. 150 suspects arrested while vehicles, arms, ammunition, drugs, and motorcycles seized.
Going forward: Violence and intimidation acts highly likely to continue against mining companies escorts and personnel, and civil servants in Est and Sahel Regions. Militant groups are aware of the importance of gold mining to the state and its international partners. Civil servants, notably teachers will become further reluctant to return to their posts in regions (Est and Sahel Regions) under constant threats by militant groups. Following recent success there is strong possibility to see expansion of similar acts to other regions of the country. In addition to Est and Sahel Regions, acts of intimidation against teachers observed by Sahel MeMo at least in Nord Region.
Militants activity in Burkina Faso have been on the rise for the past two years. Since June 2018 Sahel MeMo observed similar trend with an expansion from Northern parts bordering Mali and Niger, to the Est Region on the borders with Benin, Niger, and Togo. Militant groups have been trying to establish a base there since early 2016, explaining groups’ ability to carry complex deadly attacks, including the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Violence in the eastern part of Burkina Faso by militant groups most likely to continue. In addition to targeting security forces and intimidation acts against civil servants, militants will look to continue to disrupt gold mining in the area. In fact, security forces in charge of protecting gold mines or escorting staff have been subject to attacks by militants at least in August 2018. If this to continue, livelihoods of local communities benefiting from gold mining could be at risk if security situation continues to deteriorate in the region.
These attacks are mostly attributed rather than claimed by militant groups known to operate in Burkina Faso. These militant groups include Ansaroul Islam, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen (JNIM), and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). Out of the three only JNIM have been consistent releasing official claims of attacks. Thus analysts, observers, journalists, and Burkinabe authorities are contributing most of violent incidents based on the area where occurred and means used. Important to note that between June and October 2018 no incidents officially claimed by JNIM. This could be explained by difficulty of movement during rainy season (June – October) in the region.
October 3rd witnessed the first reported French airstrikes against militants after request of support from Burkinabe authorities. This was following a deadly attack against Inata gold mine gendarmerie post.