Gunmen raid army base in north Burkina Faso

Soldiers of Burkina Faso’s loyalist troops (L) and of the Gendarmerie Nationale stand guard by the Naba Koom II barracks, the base of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) in Ouagadougou on September 30, 2015, within the visit of interim leader Michel Kafando. General Gilbert Diendere, the leader of a failed coup by RSP in Burkina Faso, was in talks on September 30 on handing himself in to the government that his elite force tried to unseat, after troops stormed the putschists’ barracks. AFP PHOTO / SIA KAMBOU (Photo by SIA KAMBOU / AFP)

At least four Burkinabe soldiers were killed Monday when gunmen raided a military base in the north, security sources said, a day after 10 people died in a separate attack in the same region.

The pre-dawn attack saw heavily-armed gunmen ambush a base in Nassoumbou in Soum province, which flanks the Malian border, with one security source saying they used rockets. 

“Heavily-armed and unidentified individuals attacked the GFSN military base in Nassoumbou at around 4:00 am. Four members of the defence and security forces were killed and four others were injured,” a security source told AFP.

The GFSN is a military force which is engaged in anti-terror operations in Burkina Faso’s restive north. 

“The attackers… arrived on motorbikes and also fired rockets at the base” which caught fire, a second security source told AFP, saying they fled towards the Malian border, which lies just 30 kilometres (18 miles) away. 

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The Burkinabe army immediately requested backup from Barkhane, France’s regional anti-jihadist force, which deployed a Mirage fighter jet from Niger and a Tiger attack helicopter from Mali, a diplomatic source said.

The aerial support was confirmed by the French armed forces, with a Burkinabe security source saying it had allowed their troops to hunt down and kill an unspecified number of the attackers. 

The Nassoumbou base has been targeted a number of times with the worst attack in December 2016 when gunmen killed at least 12 soldiers. 

Monday’s attack came just 36 hours after suspected jihadists raided Sikire, a village about 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the east, killing 10 people when they opened fire on local residents. 

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And on January 11, gunmen attacked Gasseliki, another village in the area, where they opened fire on a market in broad daylight, killing 12 locals. 

Jihadist attacks began in northern Burkina Faso in 2015 but then spread to the east, near the border with Togo and Benin.

The region has faced extremism and lawlessness after chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, followed by an Islamist insurgency in northern Mali.

Most attacks in Burkina have been attributed to Ansarul Islam, a jihadist group which emerged near the Mali border in December 2016, and to the JNIM (the Group to Support Islam and Muslims), which has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

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