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Jihadists Take Over New Burkina Faso Fronts

Florent Coulibaly, a Burkina Faso army soldier, claims he hasn’t been sleeping well for the past three months since he is frequently roused at 3 a.m.
to combat jihadi insurgents
Life in western Burkina Faso’s Comoe region was tranquil until recently, but an uptick in attacks by extremist groups in the country’s west has put the military on edge.
“That exhausts us.”
That provides us with a substantial amount of labor.
“That terrifies us, too,” Coulibaly, 27, added.
“We have no idea where (the jihadis) will come from.”
We see them, but they don’t see us.
His unit has increased patrols from once a week to twice a week in the last six months, but Coulibaly says the men are under-equipped and overworked, and he fears the area will be overtaken by jihadis.
Extremist violence by organisations linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group has increased in Burkina Faso.
Last month, at least 11 police officers were slain in an ambush in the north of the country.
At least 132 individuals were killed in an attack in the Sahel region of the country, the country’s bloodiest bloodshed in years.
Within Burkina Faso, the Islamist insurgents are also expanding their reach.
Extremist violence in the country’s north and east has expanded to the west and southwest, bordering Mali and Ivory Coast, causing citizens and security forces to prepare for additional fighting.
For groups that can utilize western Burkina Faso as a base to expand their operations in West Africa, the move makes strategic sense.
They have protection from the heavy forest, and the location might offer them territorial control over the smuggling route between the Gulf of Guinea countries and Mali.
According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, attacks in three locations of Burkina Faso’s south and southwest doubled from four to seventeen between 2018 and 2019.
Last year, there were nine attacks, down from ten the year before, analysts say, due to enhanced military operations and the spread of unrest across the border in neighboring Ivory Coast.
In June, a soldier was slain near the Burkina Faso border in northeastern Ivory Coast, and in March, 60 gunmen attacked two security stations in Ivory Coast, killing three people.
“This incident confirmed armed organizations’ resolve to threaten coastal countries’ north.”
“This is most certainly the start of a new phase in the organization’s goal to extend into these areas,” said Florent Geel, deputy director-general of Promediation, an international mediation organization.
Local defense organizations and security forces told The Associated Press during a tour to the towns of Banfora and Gaoua in the west and southwest, as well as one village near the Ivory Coast border, that they didn’t have the manpower to stop the carnage and that it was only a matter of time before the area was overrun by jihadis.
Civilians also claim that they have begun to live in fear.
For the first time last year, jihadists plastered letters on classroom doors telling children and teachers to stay away, according to a 35-year-old primary school teacher in Comoe province who did not want to be identified for fear of his safety.
Despite the fact that his community has not been attacked, it has grown militaristic, with checkpoints fueling inhabitants’ anxiety.
“The issue is becoming worse.
In the past, you could leave (the community) with your motorcycle at midnight…
But you’re not going to take the chance today…
When you’re sleeping, you’re on the watch, and if you hear a odd noise, it wakes you up, but it wasn’t always like that,” he explained.
He claimed that a huge number of instructors, including himself, are requesting to be transferred from less safe communities that are easier to attack by jihadists to larger towns like Banfora.
The Burkina Faso army is also attempting to collaborate with the Ivorian military by conducting joint patrols and sharing intelligence, although the Ivorian soldiers refused to combat in at least one encounter with jihadists, according to the military.
Some places lack security and rely on local defense groups to keep extremists at bay.
When there is an attack in Gaoua, a group of Dozos — traditional hunters who operate throughout the region — stated they are often the first to arrive, with the army arriving three hours later or not at all.
“It’s discouraging,” said Dozo chief Noufe Sansan.
He said news of attacks in the previously calm area has become nearly everyday, pointing to a text message on his phone from a security officer alerting him that there are more than 60 radicals lurking in a nearby forest.
The Dozos are attempting to reinforce their forces and warn the community of the threat of future violence, but they need government assistance.
They requested 24 motorcycles two years ago to boost mobility and better respond to threats, but have yet to get anything, he added.
Meanwhile, civilians who fled the north’s unrest in the goal of reconstructing their lives in more peaceful areas of the country say they’ve had enough of running.
Saydou Gamsore, seated on the ground in Niangoloko village, 15 kilometers (nine miles) from the Ivory Coast border, told how he fled his home last year because of extremist violence and said he would rather die than keep going if he was attacked again.
“We’re tired of fleeing,” the 76-year-old stated.
“Even if it means death…,” she says.
I’m going to stay here.”

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