OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Eleven security forces were killed and nine injured in two separate jihadi attacks in northern Burkina Faso, the army said Friday.
The attacks on Thursday targeted a military camp about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Solle town in Loroum province and a special response unit for the gendarme in the Sanmatenga province, the army said in a statement.
The military killed 20 attackers and seized or destroyed weapons, ammunition and communication devices, the statement said.
Violence by extremists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group is soaring in the West African country, which has become the center of the region’s crisis, replacing neighboring Mali, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. Thousands of people have been killed and nearly 2 million internally displaced.
The latest attacks come on the heels of other coordinated attacks less than two weeks ago where 15 people were killed including nine security forces in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region.
In January, mutinous soldiers overthrew Burkina Faso’s democratically elected president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, promising to secure the country from jihadi violence. However, attacks have since increased, rising by 11% in February compared with the month prior, according to the U.N.
The faster cadence and sophistication of the violence could mean that militants are exploiting public divide after the junta’s takeover, say conflict analysts.
“The new attack signals a rising tide of militancy in Burkina Faso’s north and raises concerns about the expanding reach of terrorist groups who are undoubtedly making the junta’s job of securing the country ever more difficult,” said Laith Alkhouri, CEO of Intelonyx Intelligence Advisory, which provides intelligence analysis.
In addition to rising insecurity, the Burkina Faso’s junta has been trying to find eight miners trapped in a zinc mine in the center of the country for three weeks. On April 16 a flash flood at the Perkoa mine left eight miners missing — six from Burkina Faso, one Tanzanian and one Zambian. The government launched an investigation into the incident and the miners are still being searched for, said state-run media.
The mine belongs to a Canadian company, Trevali Mining Corporation, which said in a statement last week that the missing miners were working 520 meters (568 yards) underground — when the flooding happened. Since then there has been no communication with them, it said. There are two chambers in the mine designed to provide refuge for trapped workers, but the company was unsure if the miners were able to get to them in time.