Burkina Faso’s government says at least 32 military police were killed on Sunday in the latest attack on security forces. Analysts say security in the West African country has worsened this year and the opposition has threatened to hold protests if the situation does not improve.
A military post was raided in the war-torn Saum province on Sunday morning. While initial reports said 19 security force personnel and one civilian were killed, the government announced on Monday night that the death toll had risen to 32.
The attack is the latest in a long series against security forces and civilians in recent months and represents the deadliest single attack on Burkinabe personnel this year.
Burkina Faso has been battling local bandits along with armed groups linked to Islamic State and al-Qaeda since 2015. While 2020 saw a decline in violence, this year it has increased again.
Burkinabe security analyst Mahamadou Sawadogo said the attack was proof that the terrorists are capable of bringing battle to the military and are capable of leading complex attacks. He said it was also a sign that the peace that had begun to emerge in the region was fading away and there would be more attacks.
Late last year, talks were held between security forces and terrorist groups in the nearby city of Jibo. The sides reached a captive, but now it seems to have fallen apart.
Analysts say the Inata base, where Sunday’s attack took place, is one of the last bases in Saum province that is still operational, pointing to a severely outnumbered army.
While Burkinabe security forces struggle, analysts say the government is reluctant to accept international military support, unlike other countries involved in the Sahel conflict, such as Mali and Niger, which have accepted French military personnel.
On 9 November, Burkina Faso’s opposition leader Eddie Kombogo publicly called for “immediate measures” by the ruling party to stop the violence and threatened to organize widespread protests next month if nothing is done.
“Politically, this is a very difficult time for the President of Burkina Faso, as he made the security situation and the fight against terrorism an important part of his campaign,” said Andrew Lebovic, an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations. There is a lot of anger among the opposition parties, among communities, for re-election and therefore among communities.”
Speaking to the VOA, Lassen Sawadogo, executive secretary of the ruling MPP party, called for patience.
He said it was a painful event for the entire country and the fight against terrorism was a long one, but the government, along with President Roch Kabore, was committed to doing as much as it could to combat terrorism.
Kabore is the first president in Burkina Faso’s history without a military background.