Terrorism and violent extremism are recent security challenges for Burkina Faso. Prior to the November 2014 uprising that ousted President Blaise Compaoré from office there were no major terror-related incidents in the country. However, since 2015, violent extremist groups, such as al-Mourabitoun and the Macina Liberation Front (MLF), have started targeting Burkina Faso. The worst of these attacks took place in the capital, Ouagadougou, on January 15, 2016, when gunmen linked to al-Qaida stormed the Splendid Hotel and a nearby restaurant, killing 30 people.
Over the past few years, the number of violent terrorist attacks in Mali has increased and the violence and extremist influence are now spilling across the border into Burkina Faso. A year ago, terrorists attacked security outposts in Koutougou and Intangom in the northern Sahel region. In December 2016, a dozen Burkinabé soldiers were killed when their outpost was overrun in Nassombou. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) affiliates – Ansar ul-Islam, al-Mourabitoun, and the MLF – have been implicated in these attacks.
The Burkinabé military is well disciplined and competent. However, they are ill-equipped and under-resourced to deal with this emerging threat. They are working to meet the current challenges but organizational change is slow and government resources are spread thin. A US Army civil affairs team working to bolster Burkinabé efforts has identified enhanced search capabilities as a key need for their partners, the 11th Regiment d’Infanterie Commando (RIC), who patrol Burkina Faso’s north and the dangerous Zone Rouge or Red Zone.
In order to carry out their attacks, VEOs are smuggling weapons and explosive materials across the tri-border region (Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger). Stopping these smugglers is critical to protect citizens, enhance regional security, and tamp down violent extremism. However, tribesman, herders, and truck drivers with legitimate business on both sides of the border conduct much of the smuggling. Searching herds of animals laden with feed sacks and large truckloads of cargo is slow and tedious work when done by hand. New metal detectors will greatly enhance the Burkinabé’s speed, efficiency, and effectiveness with direct security benefits.
Your generosity and support will enable us to provide much-needed assistance to the Burkinabé soldiers on the front lines of the fight against violent extremism in West Africa.
Hello, I recently returned from a trip to Burkina Faso, where I had the opportunity to travel alongside our US military partners as they assessed local needs, met with Burkinabé counterparts, and provided training to their partner force. Overall, I was incredibly impressed by the Burkinabés. They are one of the most disciplined, competent, and … Continued