On 7 February, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued an update on Burkina Faso, for the first time advising against all travel throughout the nation, with the exception of Ouagadougou. In the capital city, the FCO advises against all but essential travel, up to the toll booths on all roads out of the city.
Since 2013, Burkina Faso has seen a significant rise in criminality, ethnic violence and terrorism. The violence initially emanated from Mali, and made its way into northern Burkina Faso. Over the past several years, the violence has continued to push south, and Burkina Faso is replacing Mali as epicentre of Sahel security crisis.
In 2019 alone, the country experienced 200 terror-related attacks, 30 kidnappings, and 32 incidents of violent crime. These numbers could be higher due to unreported incidents. On 27 December, the Burkinabé government extended the state of emergency in fourteen provinces for an additional year. These measures, which give security forces extra powers to search homes and restrict freedom of movement. will remain in place until 12 Jan 2021.
If current trends persist, Burkina Faso risks becoming a launchpad for Islamic extremists to expand towards coastal West Africa, and the epicentre of conflict will likely shift from northern region to the southern Burkinabé border. Outside of Ouagadougou, there have been regular attacks on police, military personnel and civilians, particularly along the borders with Mali, Niger and Cote d’Ivoire and in the Eastern Region.
Terror attacks are very likely in Burkina Faso, including Ouagadougou. These attacks can be indiscriminate, and targets include security forces, religious sites, restaurants and places visited by foreigners. Travellers are advised to be vigilant at all times, and particularly around religious holidays.
Overnight on Wednesday 3 October to Thursday 4 October unidentified gunmen launched an attack on the security post of Inata gold mine, located about 60 km (35 miles) from Djibo, the provincial capital of Soum province. Significant material damage has been reported, including five burned mine vehicles. The attack is believed to have been carried out by an insurgent cell composed of several armed men, transported by at least two vehicles and motorcycles. The gendarmes fought back for several hours. Calm has since returned to the region after the intervention air support provided by Operation Barkhane.
Initially, a number of international security companies had mis-reported this incident as an attack at the Essakane gold mine – which has now been confirmed as a false reporting and was confused with an unrelated robbery incident in the Essakane hamlet and not at the mine. Given the fluid security situation in Burkina Faso, particularly in the northern region, and across the wider Sahel, it is necessary to ensure the validity of all incidents being reported. Failure to do so will only promote fear and distrust, which may lead to further chaos. The escalations in attacks and the increasing use of kidnapping and IEDs has elevated concerns to those watching the region closely.
Further incidents are likely to occur as the area has seen a number of attacks in recent weeks, including the 23 September incident involving the kidnapping of three mine workers – a Burkinabe national, a South African, and an Indian who is reportedly a member of the family who earlier in the year purchased the Inata mine out of financial distress – who were taken by armed men between Djibo and the mine. Three police officers were later killed during the search for the kidnapped mineworkers, whose current whereabouts remain unknown. Days later, on 26 September, eight members of the Burkina Faso security forces were killed when a roadside bomb hit their patrol vehicle on the road between Djibo and Baraboule.
MS Risk currently advises against all travel to the following parts of the Burkina Faso:
- All areas of the country north of the town of Boulsa
- Areas within 40 kilometres (24 miles) of the western border with Mali
- The W National Park in the southeast of the country, bordering Benin and Niger
MS Risk currently advises against all but essential travel to the rest of Burkina Faso, including the provinces of Tapoa, Kompienga, Gourma, and Komondjari, and the capital Ouagadougou. All travellers to Burkina Faso should remain vigilant at all times as militants may be planning further attacks that could target areas that are popular with foreigners, including hotels, cafes and restaurants, and resorts. Western interests across the region, including in Burkina Faso, may also be targeted.
- 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.
On Friday 2 March, armed assailants attacked several targets in Burkina Faso’s capital city Ouagadougou, with reports indicating that the army headquarters and the French embassy were targeted in a coordinated assault that France’s ambassador to the West African region called a terrorist attack.
The assault began at around 10 AM (1000 GMT) on Friday, with reports emerging that gunmen had attacked the downtown army headquarters. By noon local time, residents reported that gunfire had largely ceased. Images on social media depicted billowing smoke, with witnesses reporting that the explosion rocked the army compound, setting the building on fire and sending up a thick column of black smoke. Panicked residents fled the city centre on foot or motorbikes as dozens of Burkinabe Special Forces and armoured vehicles took up positions in the area. Police also took up positions near the offices of the prime minister where gunfire was also reported. Reports have indicated that the French Embassy in Ouagadougou and a French cultural centre were also targeted. France’s ambassador to Burkina Faso Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes confirmed that the embassy compound, which is located around 2 km (1.24 miles) from the army headquarters, was under attack, though he gave no further details. While the embassy initially stated on its Facebook page that an attack was underway at the embassy as well as at Ouagadougou’s French cultural institute, embassy officials later amended the message to say that it was “not clear at this stage which sites are targeted.” Meanwhile an aide to French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian disclosed that France’s embassy and cultural institute in Ouagadougou are no longer in danger. A statement released by the Elysee Palace in Paris disclosed that French President Emmanuel Macron was being kept up to date with the events in Ouagadougou. If confirmed, the French targets attacked in the country are symbolic given the fact that French President Emmanuel Macron’s choose to outline his Africa strategy, which includes the fight against Islamist militants, in November 2017 in Ouagadougou during an official visit to the region.
A Burkinabe government statement released Friday afternoon disclosed that four gunmen were “neutralized” at the French embassy, adding that operations were continuing. Government spokesman Remi Dandjinou reported that five people were killed and around 50 were wounded in the attack on the military headquarters. He added that two paramilitary gendarmes were killed defending the French embassy. A curfew is currently in place from 1800 until dawn. Anyone in the capital city is advised to remain indoors as further attacks may occur.
This is the third major terrorist attack to take place in Ouagadougou in just over two years. In recent years, Islamist militants across the region have stepped up their attacks in major cities across West Africa, with deadly assaults reported in Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Niger. Suspected jihadists killed at least eighteen people in August 2017 during a raid on a restaurant in Ouagadougou and in recent months, militants have increasingly been targeting Burkinabe security forces and local communities along its remote border region with Mali – proof that the security situation in Mali is spilling over. While there has so far been no claim of responsibility for the 2 Mach 2017 attack, previous attacks were carried out by allies of al-Qaeda in reprisal for Burkina Faso’s participation in the regional fight against Islamist militants. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for an attack on a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou in January 2016, in which thirty people were killed.
- Australian couple kidnapped in Burkina Faso overnight Friday to Saturday.
- Islamist group confirms kidnapping.
The Burkinabe government has confirmed that two Australians have been kidnapped in Burkina Faso, specifically in Baraboule, near the West African country’s borders with Niger and Mali. Burkina Faso’s Communications Minister Remi Dandjinou disclosed Saturday that the couple were Australian nationals, correcting an earlier statement released by the interior ministry which had identified them as Austrian.
A spokesman for Malian militant group Ansar Dine, Hamadou Ag Khallini has stated that the couple were being held by jihadists from al-Qaeda-linked “Emirate of the Sahara,” adding that they are alive and that more details would be released soon.
News of the kidnapping comes just hours after Islamist militants stormed the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, leaving at least 26 people dead, including many foreigners.
Embassy Contact Details
Embassy of Canada
316 Professor Joseph KIZERBO ave.
01 P.O. box 548
Hours of operation: Monday to Thursday (8:30 AM to 12PM; 2PM to 4PM); Friday (8:30 AM – 12 PM)
***Please note that Australians are covered by the Canadian embassy in Ouagadougou***
Avenue du Tresor, BP 504, Ouagadougou
Telephone: (226) 220.127.116.11
- With ongoing operations in central Ouagadougou, MS Risk advises all travellers to avoid the central area of the capital and to shelter in place unless instructed otherwise by security forces or authorities.
- We also advise all travellers to the country to avoid the border areas with Mali, this is due to a high threat of kidnap. We advise those in remote areas of the country to be aware of ground moves and to always travel in convoy.
- We advise that companies operating across Burkina Faso ensure that heightened levels of security are in place, including accounting for personnel, maintaining regular comms checks, reviewing security and considering crisis plans.
- A curfew has been put in place from 2300 to 0600 UTC in Ouagadougou.
- While the airport in Ouagadougou and borders are currently open, MS Risk advises all travellers that the Burkinabe authorities may change this with minimal notice.
In the wake of the terror attack in Ouagadougou, MS Risk has the following in place:
- Our local agents are taking stock of the scene and we will be able to provide local nationals as private security personnel through our partners for the benefit of clients. This includes provision of fully licensed armed personnel.
- We have liaison in place with the state security forces and will share relevant information as we are made aware.
- Our analyst team is reviewing the attack and tracking related events and will be issuing further bulletins.
- We have expatriate consultants on standby to deploy to Burkina Faso to conduct urgent security reviews, update crisis response contingencies, supervise security enhancements, coordinate repatriation of non-essential personnel for any companies and other tasks as may be necessary.
- Our aviation partners can lay on private air charters if there is a demand. We will continue to monitor commercial flight schedules.
- Contact us for more information or support:
- By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Our 24/7 hotline: +44 207 754 3555 and request assistance. Have your contact details to hand so we can ensure appropriate follow up.