A Burkina Faso soldier was killed and another injured after a military vehicle was hit in a roadside bomb attack on Saturday, October 6 near Kabonga in Burkina Faso’s restive east.
The incident occurred near Pama in Kompienga province, around 100 km (62 miles) from Fada N’Gourma, a security source told AFP.
#BurkinaFaso: A Burkinabe army vehicle struck by an IED in the area of Kabonga, axis Fada N'Gourma-Pama, #Kompienga Province, at least one soldier killed and another wounded, military aircrafts reportedly hovering the skies in the area amid ongoing joint #France-Burkina operation pic.twitter.com/h0C9gZxu4v
— MENASTREAM (@MENASTREAM) October 6, 2018
“A Burkinabé officer was killed and a soldier wounded by the explosion of an improvised explosive device hitting their vehicle,” a security source said.
Local residents told AFP that aircraft later struck targets in the forests around Pama.
Earlier, Infowakat reported that a French military vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb near Kabonga in Kompienga province, between Fada N’Gourma and Pama. According to Infowakat, the attack caused casualties, who were evacuated, and military aircraft later struck targets in the area.
Menastream, a Middle East and North Africa research and risk consultancy, tweeted that reports said one French and one Burkinabe soldier were killed.
However, the General Staff of the French Armed Forces reportedly denied “the loss of a French soldier in Burkina Faso,” according to RFI journalist Olivier Fourt.
Infowakat later published a correction, saying that a Burkina Faso military vehicle was hit and an officer killed, adding that a joint response was underway in the area.
The Defense Post contacted the French general staff and the armed forces ministry for clarification, and asked if French forces were in the area and if French aircraft conducted airstrikes after the incident, but did not receive a reply.
Xavier Lapdecab de Cabanes, French Ambassador to Burkina Faso tweeted: “I offer my condolences to the family of the lieutenant who died today and to all Burkinabé people.”
“France is and will remain beside #BurkinaFaso and with it in these fights against those who want to destabilize it,” he added.
The attack came just a day after at least six police officers were killed and five injured in an ambush in the northern Burkina Faso town of Solle near the border with Mali, one of an increasing number of attacks in the north in recent weeks.
And Saturday’s incident is not the only report involving French forces in Burkina Faso in the past week.
On October 3, a gendarme was killed and another injured in an attack on a security post at the Inata gold mine in Soum province in the north of the country. A French Reaper drone was sent to the area and two Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft deployed with France’s Operation Barkhane later struck a convoy of ‘terrorists’ on motorcycles nearby, officials said.
Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaeda took control of the desert north of Mali in early 2012, exploiting a Tuareg separatist uprising. France began a military intervention the next year that evolved into the current Operation Barkhane deployment with a mandate for counter-terror operations across the Sahel region, encompassing Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Around 4,500 French personnel are deployed with Operation Barkhane, and they work alongside the G5 Sahel joint counter-terrorism force that aims to train 5,000 troops, as well as peacekeepers deployed to the United Nations Minusma stabilization mission in Mali.
Recent upsurge of attacks in eastern Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso’s East region has been hit with an upsurge in violence, with improvised explosive device attacks on vehicles becoming increasingly frequent in Gourma and Kompienga provinces, and more recently in Komondjari province.
On October 4, at least five soldiers were killed in an attack near Gayeri near the border with Niger.
The armed forces said on September 16 that it had conducted air strikes and clearing operations near Pama and Gayeri, without specifying when.
On September 15, at least nine civilians were killed in twin attacks in Diabiga and Kompienbiga in Kompienga province.
Ten days earlier, two Burkina Faso soldiers were killed and five others wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Kabonga in Kompienga province. That patrol had reportedly been deployed in response to an attack on August 28 in which at least seven Burkinabe security personnel sent as reinforcements were killed when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb en route to Pama, where a police station had come under attack.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso has been battling an escalating wave of attacks over the last three years, beginning with cross-border incursions in the north of the country but now spreading to the east, near the border with Togo, Benin and Niger.
Security forces have carried out a series of arrests in recent months, detaining hundreds of people in connection with the attacks.
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said last month that additional security measures would shortly be unveiled to “resume the initiative” throughout Burkina Faso “to eradicate the curse of terrorism,” particularly in the east and north.
But a recent surge in attacks in the east of the country is said by experts to be the result of pressure on jihadist insurgents in neighboring Mali and Niger.