Extremists say more than 70 soldiers have died in Burkina Faso
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — Islamic State has killed more than 70 soldiers, wounded dozens and taken five hostages hostage in an ambush of a military convoy in northern Burkina Faso.
Amaq, the group’s news agency, said in a statement on Friday that a convoy trying to reach areas under its control was attacked near Deou in the Oudalan province of the Sahel. He said he seized weapons and chased retreating soldiers for miles across the desert.
Pictures released by the group show the bodies of 54 slain soldiers in uniform in the blood-stained dirt, along with more than 50 seized assault rifles and pictures of the five soldiers it said were captured.
The announcement came a week after the attack in Deou and days after another attack in the town of Tin-Akoff, where locals and civil society groups say dozens more soldiers and civilians were killed when a military outpost was hit.
It is unclear how many people died in the two incidents. Last week, the government confirmed that 51 soldiers had died in the Deou ambush, but did not respond to requests to update the numbers or comment on the Tin-Akoff attack.
Violence linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State has plagued the country for seven years, killing thousands and displacing nearly 2 million people. Frustration over the government’s inability to stop the violence led to two coups last year, each preceded by a major attack on the army.
It is the deadliest ambush against soldiers since the new junta leader, Capt. Ibrahim Traore, took power in September, and analysts say it could threaten his takeover.
“In the northern part of the country, there are continuous militant attacks, and the public is undoubtedly aware of their government’s inability to provide security. Any more such massive attacks could threaten a public scene and even threaten to topple the junta,” said Laith Alkhouri, CEO of intelligence analysis firm Intelonyx Intelligence Advisory.
A soldier involved in the ambush in Deoui, who was not authorized to speak to the media, said their convoy was outnumbered as more than 300 jihadists surrounded them, firing rockets and mortars. “We lost a lot of people,” he said.
The sheer number of jihadists and the different colored headscarves they wore looked like a coalition of many extremist franchises unlike anything you’d seen before.
Islamic State and the al-Qaida-linked group known by the acronym JNIM do not cooperate, instead fighting each other for territory and influence in the country and in neighboring Mali, where they operate. According to analysts, it is extremely unlikely that they would have teamed up.
Some locals say the increase in violence against the jihadist army is revenge for torture and extrajudicial killings by soldiers of people believed to be jihadists.
Hamadou Boureima Diallo, a local journalist in the Sahel city of Dori, told The Associated Press by phone that he had spoken to locals who witnessed the latest attack in Tin-Akoff and were able to escape, blaming the killings on revenge.
“These recent bloody attacks on soldiers are because when soldiers arrest terrorists or suspected terrorists, they torture them and take photos or videos that go viral on social media,” Diallo said, recounting what locals said. “We have seen some videos where suspected terrorists are being tortured. … This is not good,” he said.