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Suspected militant attacks kill dozens in Burkina Faso

Four suspected militant attacks have killed 30 people, including 16 auxiliaries supporting the army, in Burkina Faso, security sources said.

Thursday’s attacks in the north and northwest of the country were the latest to hit a civilian auxiliary force that supports the military in a seven-year fight against the militants.

“First attack targeted an advance party of Volunteers for the Defence of the Fatherland (VDP) in Rakoegtenga,” a town in the northern province of Bam, a VDP official said.

Six auxiliaries and a woman died in the attack, the same official said.

Around 10 people were wounded, including some seriously, who were “evacuated to Ouagadougou for appropriate care,” the VDP official said.

He said the second attack killed around 10 auxiliaries and a person in Nayala province in the northwest “in the afternoon when a convoy escorted by auxiliaries and soldiers was ambushed on the Siena-Saran road”.

Security sources confirmed two attacks but gave no precise death toll, referring only to “a number of losses”.

The VDP, set up in December 2019, comprises civilian volunteers who are given two weeks’ military training and then work alongside the army, typically carrying out surveillance, information-gathering or escort duties.

Two other incidents linked to armed jihadist groups were recorded on Thursday, according to other security sources. In the north-central province of Sanmatenga, a joint military and VDP team was targeted in Zincko, one of them said.

“About 10 terrorists were neutralised (killed).

Unfortunately, four civilians were also killed,” the source said.

Later in the evening, gunmen raided the town of Sanaba in Banwa province, killing eight civilians.

Landlocked Burkina Faso in West Africa is one of the poorest and most volatile nations in the world.

Since 2015, it has been grappling with an insurgency led by militants affiliated with Al Qaeda and Daesh that has killed tens of thousands and displaced around two million people.

READ MORE: Dozens of foraging women abducted in Burkina Faso’s north

Militant insurgency

Commentators worry that the poorly trained volunteers are easy targets for the militants – and may dangerously inflame ethnic friction without proper controls.

Last week around 60 women, girls and babies in the northern Djibo region were abducted while gathering wild fruit and other food, investigators have said.

Late last year, authorities launched a drive to recruit 50,000 VDP – 90,000 signed up – but hundreds of volunteers have died, especially in ambushes or roadside bomb attacks.

Violence targeting security forces and civilians has increased in recent months, especially in northern and eastern regions bordering militant-hit Mali and Niger.

The escalating toll unleashed two military coups last year, launched by officers angered at failures to stem the bloodshed.

Suspected armed fighters ‘abduct’ about 50 women in Burkina Faso

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