MS Risk Blog

Burkina Faso and Mali to Work to Counter Threat of Terrorism in Region

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In the wake of Friday’s deadly terrorist attack in Burkina Faso, the West African country and neighbouring Mali have agreed to work together to counter the growing threat of Islamic militants in West Africa by sharing intelligence and conducting joint security patrols.

According to officials, the prime ministers of Mali and Burkina Faso met on Sunday, just two days after al-Qaeda militants seized the Splendid Hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital city Ouagadougou, opened fire on a restaurant and attacked another hotel nearby, killing at least 28 people from at least seven countries and wounding fifty others. The assault, which was claimed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) just hours later, follows a similar raid that occurred in November 2015 on a luxury hotel in the Malian capital Bamako. That attack resulted in the death of twenty people, including citizens from China, Russia and the United States. In a statement on the attack in Burkina Faso, AQIM identified three attackers and called the targeted hotel and surrounding areas “one of the most dangerous dens of global espionage in the west of the African continent,” warning that “this blessed operation is but a drop in the sea of global jihad.”

On Sunday, Burkina Faso’s prime minister Paul Kaba Thieba disclosed that “there is a very strong political will on the part of the two states to combine our efforts to fight terrorism.” Thieba and his Malian counterpart Modibo Keita visited the outside of the Splendid Hotel on Sunday, where bullet holes and a charred exterior offered reminders of Friday evening’s attack. Tight security was in place around the hotel while inside, Burkinabe and French security officials were conducting an investigation. Security forces in Burkina Faso retook the 146-room hotel on Saturday after firefights with militants, at least three of whom were killed. Survivors have since reported that militants targeted white victims at the hotel and at the restaurant, both of which were popular among westerners.

According to provisional figures released by the Burkinabe government, amongst the dead were eight Burkinabe’s, four Canadians, three Ukrainians, two Portuguese, two French, two Swiss and one Dutch citizen. Seven bodies are yet to be identified and the list is subject to change. On Sunday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated that six Canadians had been killed. Also on Sunday, Italy’s foreign ministry reported that a nine-year-old Italian boy and his mother were killed in the assault on Cappuccino, the restaurant attacked opposite the Splendid Hotel. The boy and his mother were the son and wife of the restaurant owner.

While the exact details of the cooperation between Burkina Faso and Mali currently remain unclear, patrols and the sharing of intelligence mark an intent by the two countries to prevent the spread of militancy as AQIM and others expand operations in the region beyond their usual reach. While over the past several years, Islamic militants have used northern Mali as a base, recently, they have staged a number of attacks in other parts of the country, moving further south and prompting concerns that they are expanding their area of operation. Burkina Faso’s authorities are now concerned that its long desert border with Mali could become a transit point for militants.

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