Gunmen attacked a Turkish restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital city of Ouagadougou on Sunday night, leaving at least 17 dead and eight others wounded. The army sealed off the central part of the city and evacuated civilians from the area before launching a counterattack. Three suspected jihadists were reportedly killed during the shootout.
Communication Minister, Remis Dandjinou, said in a statement that the details of the assailants involved were still unknown. “They are confined to one part of the building they attacked. Security and elite forces are conducting an operation,” he added.
While it is unclear who was responsible for this latest attack, there are fears that a jihadist group may be behind it. However, according to a statement issued by al-Qaeda following the attacks, the three assailants in that incident were not Burkinabé, but came from bordering African countries. Other countries in the Sahel region, such as Mali, Nigeria, and Algeria have long been known to host Islamic terrorist groups. Nonetheless, experts say that the terror threat in Burkina Faso has increasingly been home-grown.
Meanwhile, just last year, a jihadist massacre at an Ouagadougou café resulted in the death of 30 people. The Islamic Maghreb branch of al-Qaeda and the African jihadist group Al Mourabitoun claimed joint responsibility for that attack.
Furthermore, the region surrounding Burkina Faso’s northern border with Mali, another African country plagued by Islamic extremism, is home to the radicalized imam, Ibraham Malam Dicko. Dicko leads an association called Ansarul Islam, which has claimed numerous attacks against citizens in recent years and has consequently been labelled as a “terrorist group” by the government.
The repeated attacks from local terrorist organizations, such as Ansarul Islam has caused panic across Burkina Faso. For instance, some fear that the north is only a starting point for Ansarul Islam and that terrorist activity will expand to other regions. In addition, Burkina Faso, which is already among the poorest nations in the world, would suffer immensely from increased terror across the country, while the northern region has already lost economic and social stability.
“Many homes have been deserted. In Djibo’s district 5, many homes are empty,” a local told BBC in April. He added that “Economic activity has ground to a halt. We no longer have any night life. Westerners who are high-value targets have left.”
To illustrate the instability, gunmen frequently go on shooting rampages and loot stores, while many schools have shut down due to the violence. Although soldiers are currently operating in the area, according to the BBC, extremists have the upper hand because they know the “lay of the land.” As well, while government officials have repeatedly condemned the violence by homegrown Islamic groups, they have not done much to combat it. This is because it would seem that the impoverished nation lacks both the financial and human resources to take significant measures against terrorism.
As a result, back in March, the government arrived at a more concrete plan. They will begin to withdraw troops deployed in peacekeeping missions abroad and reassign them to fight against Ansarul Islam in the north. Considering the lack of success that the soldiers currently stationed in the north have had with Ansarul Islam, however, it is not clear whether the additional forces will be enough to stem the terrorist activity in Burkina Faso.
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