At least 28 people, including soldiers and civilians, have been killed in two attacks by armed assailants in Burkina Faso, a regional governor and the army said in separate statements.
The army said on Monday that a combat unit in Falagountou, in the north of the country near its border with Niger, came under attack and that 10 soldiers, two fighters of the volunteer force and a civilian were killed.
The army said the bodies of 15 assailants were found after the attack.
In a separate statementL, Jean Charles dit Yenapono Some, governor of the country’s Cascades region in the south near the border with Ivory Coast, said the bodies of 15 men, all civilians, had been found following an attack on Sunday.
The governor said armed men had stopped two transport vehicles carrying eight women and 16 men. The women and one man were freed, he said.
“This January 30, the corpses of the victims, showing signs of bullet impact, were found near Linguekoro village,” the governor said in the statement.
The latest killings come as Burkina Faso — and its neighbours in Mali and Niger — battle armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIL) who have occupied territory in the country’s arid and mainly rural north, executing hundreds of villagers and displacing nearly 2 million people. The fighters have blockaded towns and villages, worsening a food crisis.
On Thursday, the AFP news agency also reported that at least 10 civilians were killed in two attacks in the town of Dassa in west-central Burkina Faso, approximately 140km (90 miles) west of the capital Ouagadougou.
With more than a third of Burkina Faso now beyond the control of the government, frustration within the army regarding the handling of the security situation triggered two coups last year and has intensified political instability and strained relations with former colonial power France, which has fought against the armed groups in the Sahel region.
‘Down with French policy in Africa’
Thousands of demonstrators rallied in the capital Ouagadougou on Saturday in support of the ruling military government’s decision to order France to withdraw within a month its contingent of about 400 soldiers currently stationed in the country to assist in the fight against the armed fighters.
Packing Nation Square in central Ouagadougou, protesters held signs bearing slogans including “Down with imperialism”, “Down with French policy in Africa”, and “Forwards for Burkina’s sovereignty”.
“We do not want any more foreign military bases on our soil,” Lazare Yameogo, spokesperson for the Inter-African Revolutionary Movement, told the crowd. “We will remain on the lookout until Burkina Faso is liberated from Western imperialism,” he added.
The presence of French troops in its former colonies in the Sahel has come under intense scrutiny as anti-French sentiment in the region grows. The military government in neighbouring Mali also ordered French troops to leave, and the last contingent departed Malian territory in August 2022.
France said on Thursday that it was recalling its ambassador from Burkina Faso, a day after agreeing to the demand to withdraw its troops from the country.
Rinaldo Depagne of the International Crisis Group think tank said on Saturday that the decision to push French forces out of Burkina Faso was motivated by several factors.
“The government wants the country to defend itself and promote a patriotic spirit, to look for new external partners to get easier access to military equipment and to satisfy its political base,” Depagne said in a statement.