At least 32 defence volunteers and 10 soldiers have died in suspected jihadist attacks in insurgency-hit northern Burkina Faso, officials said on Sunday.
A detachment of soldiers and the civilian volunteers “was the target of an attack by unidentified armed men on Saturday… at about 4:00 pm,” near Aorema village, the Ouahigouya governorate said in a statement.
The army said the death toll was 40 — eight soldiers and 32 defence volunteers, adding that “at least 50 terrorists” were “neutralised” in the counter-attack, including a number killed in air strikes.
On Sunday, there was “another attack targeting the military detachment of Kongoussi (Bam province, North Central region)”, according to the same source, who reported “two soldiers” killed and “about 20 terrorists neutralised”.
The governorate of the northern region said that 33 people wounded in the first attack were “in stable condition” and currently being taken care of in the regional capital.
According to a security source contacted by AFP, the detachment targeted by Saturday’s attack was charged with ensuring “the security of the Ouahigouya airfield that was targeted”.
“Heavy fighting did indeed take place yesterday (Saturday) night” for “almost two hours,” said a local.
He also claimed that “several air strikes targeted positions of suspected jihadists” on Friday.
Burkina Faso’s military junta had declared Thursday a “general mobilisation” to give the state “all necessary means” to combat a string of bloody attacks blamed on jihadists affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
– State of emergency –
Details of the plan were not disclosed, though a security source told AFP it would include “a state of emergency for the affected territories”.
Authorities also issued an “advisory” that gives the president “the right to requisition people, goods and services and the right to restrain certain civil liberties”, according to another security source.
On Tuesday, the defence minister called for current and retired military personnel to hand in unused uniforms to help outfit army soldiers.
Last week, 44 civilians were reported killed by “armed terrorist groups” in two villages in the northeast, near the Niger border.
It was one of the deadliest attacks against civilians since Captain Ibrahim Traore came to power last September, after 51 soldiers were killed in February at Deou, in the far north.
The government had already announced the same month a plan to recruit 5,000 more soldiers to battle the insurgency that has gripped one of the world’s poorest countries since 2015.
Traore, Burkina’s transitional president, has declared a goal of recapturing the 40 percent of the country’s territory which is controlled by jihadists.
The violence has left more than 10,000 people dead, according to non-governmental aid groups, and displaced two million people from their homes.