Update on Burkina Faso ShootoutMay 23, 2018 in al-Qaeda, Burkina Faso, Sahel Region
- On 22 May, a shootout occurred between security forces and suspected terrorists in the Rayongo neighbourhood on the outskirts of Ouagadougou.
- Military uniforms were found among items confiscated by security forces.
- Security presence is heightened in and around Ouagadougou.
- Visitors are urged to remain vigilant and follow guidance issues by security forces.
On 22 May, a shootout occurred between security forces and suspected terrorists on the outskirts of Ouagadougou. At approximately 3 am, police responded to a report of suspicious activities in the Rayongo district (Arrondissement 11, south-east Ouagadougou). A seven-hour stand-off near the Karpala and Balkuy neighbourhoods left three assailants dead, and five gendarmes and one civilian wounded. One assailant was taken alive and held for questioning.
Weapons and other material were found at the scene, including Kalashnikov rifles, grenades, truck-mounted machine guns, bomb-making materials, and several rounds of ammunition. Ominously, among the seized items were military uniforms.
On 2 March, armed assailants conducted a coordinated assault against multiple targets in Ouagadougou, including Burkinabe military headquarters and the French embassy. Multiple verified reports indicated that attackers dressed in national military uniforms were seen getting out of cars and firing. A day after the attack, extremist group Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), affiliates of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, claimed responsibility for the attack. A statement released by the group claimed the attack, citing retaliation for a previous raid during Operation Barkhane by the French army in northern Mali. Security Minister Clement Sawadogo says the extremists involved in the 22 May shootout are linked to the 2 March attacks.
On 8 May, a communique attributed to al Qaeda in the Sahel region warned that the group would attack Western companies established in the Sahel region. The translated missive states, “This statement calls to boycott all Western companies and foundations … that operate in the Islamic Maghreb … and the countries of the Sahel, and gives a warning to them that they are legitimate target for the mujahideen.” The statement singled out France and its regional allies: “We have decided to strike that which prolongs the continuity of these agent governments and enables the French occupier to provide a lavish life and prosperity to its people.”
Currently, there is heightened police presence in Ouagadougou, where three major attacks have occurred in less than two years. The nation also remains on high alert as Burkinabe soldiers and police have also come under repeated attack near the borders with Mali and Niger.
Although the attackers pre-emptively thwarted in yesterday’s stand-off, it remains likely that the AQ affiliates will continue attempts to target western companies, as well as French, Burkinabe, or regional military forces in and around the capital.
In a separate event, it was reported that armed individuals visited the village of Boula, (Gnanga province) and announced to the local population that there is now a ban on celebrating baptisms and weddings. According to witnesses, the ban spans from the Christine Drilling (a major hydraulic infrastructure near Boula) to Mali. The armed men threatened any who would reveal them to defence or security forces, adding they would eliminate authorities that oppose their application of sharia law. According to the witnesses, the fighters left, heading toward the border with Mali.
Members of the Peul community near the Béli river have formed a self-defence group to protect their communities from the increased attacks. The members are composed of composed of Malian and Burkinabe civilians who refer to themselves as the Alliance for Sahel Salut.
MS Risk currently advises against travel to all areas of the country north of the town of Boulsa, as well as areas within 40 kilometres (24 miles) of the western border with Mali, and the W National Park in the southeast of the country, bordering Benin and Niger. MS Risk also advises against all but essential travel to the rest of Burkina Faso, including Ouagadougou. Visitors to Burkina Faso are urged to remain vigilant at all times, and follow guidance issues by security forces.. Militants are likely to be planning further attacks, including areas that are popular with foreigners (particularly westerners). This includes hotels, cafes and restaurants, and resorts. Western interests across the region, including in Burkina Faso, may also be targeted.