Date: Wed, 26 Sep 2018 14:51:36 +0200

Ouagadougou, Sept 26, 2018 (AFP) - Eight soldiers were killed on Wednesday by a blast in the troubled north of Burkina Faso, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore announced.   "I have just learned that eight Burkinabe soldiers died after their vehicle drove over a home-made mine planted by the enemies of our people," he said.  The convoy had been heading from Baraboule in Soum province, where jihadists have carried out a string of attacks since 2015, to the town of Djibo.   "The lead vehicle in the convoy hit the mine" as it was coming off a bridge, a security source told AFP.

Kabore expressed his "deepest condolences to the defence and security forces, to the families and relatives of the victims."   "These horrible and cowardly attacks will never sap our common resolve to defend our national territorial integrity, to restore peace and security for the happiness and prosperity of the Burkinabe people."   One of the world's poorest countries, Burkina Faso started experiencing cross-border jihadist attacks in its northern region in 2015 -- an offensive that has now spread to the east of the country.

On Sunday, three miners -- a Burkinabe national, an Indian and a South African -- were seized by armed men between Djibo and a local gold mine.   Hours later, three police officers deployed to help search for the trio were killed in a clash with armed men at Tongomael, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) away.

Abductions include that of Australian Kenneth Elliott and his wife Jocelyn, humanitarian workers in their eighties, who were kidnapped in Djibo in 2015.    Jocelyn Elliott was released but her husband, who had been running a clinic for the poor for decades, is still being held.   On September 8, Kabore said additional security measures would shortly be unveiled "to eradicate the curse of terrorism".
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2018 19:47:38 +0200

Ouagadougou, Sept 5, 2018 (AFP) - Two soldiers died and six were wounded Wednesday when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle in eastern Burkina Faso, a poor Sahel state where Islamist unrest is gaining ground, security sources said.   The attack in Kabonga was the latest using an improvised explosive device against soldiers or police, and came as a senior police official warned of rising unrest in the country's east.

A similar strike a week ago killed seven people, soldiers and gendarmes sent to reinforce a police station that had come under attack in the restive town of Pama.   A security source said the latest blast targeted a mine clearance team that was also headed for Pama to "search for and neutralise" explosive devices planted by jihadists who have infiltrated the area in recent months.

A similar attack three weeks ago killed six other people in the region.   Local media published a warning by police commissioner Karim Drabo who oversees the region. He said armed militants aimed "to set up bases for terrorist attacks in the zone" and were "gaining ground".   Since 2015, Burkina Faso has battled increased Islamist violence of the sort that plagues neighbouring Mali and Niger, and experts say the recent surge is likely the result of pressure on jihadist insurgents there.
Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2018 20:56:56 +0200

Ouagadougou, Aug 28, 2018 (AFP) - Seven members of the security forces were killed early Tuesday after their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in eastern Burkina Faso, security sources said.   The fatalities were gendarmes and troops who had been sent to the town of Pama as reinforcements after a police station there came under attack, they said.   "Seven members of the defence and security forces were killed and another six were wounded, two of whom are in a precarious condition," a government statement said of the incident not far from Fada N'Gourma, the main town in the Eastern Region.

There were no casualties in the Pama attack, although the police station was set ablaze.   There were no immediate details about the roadside blast, but it bore the hallmark of attacks attributed to jihadists that have shaken the country's east in recent months.   The Sahel state, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been battling Islamist violence since 2015, starting with cross-border incursions in the north.   The recent surge of attacks in the east is the result of pressure on jihadist insurgents in neighbouring Mali and Niger, experts say.   On August 11, four gendarmes and a civilian were killed when their vehicle struck a mine about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Fada N'Gourma, the main town in the Eastern Region administrative area.

A sixth person, also a gendarme, was killed later in a shootout with the assailants.   On June 17, a policeman was killed in the town of Comin-Yanga in a simultaneous attack on the local police and gendarmerie stations.   The security forces have carried out a wave of arrests, detaining hundreds of people in connection with the attacks.   Official figures released in April showed there had been 80 attacks in three years that killed 133 people, many of them state officials. Hundreds of schools and town halls have been closed.   The capital Ouagadougou, in the centre of the country, has suffered three attacks in two years, leaving 60 dead.
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2018 05:19:06 +0200
By Olympia DE MAISMONT

BazoulĂ©, Burkina Faso, June 19, 2018 (AFP) - Crocodiles may be one of the deadliest hunters in the animal kingdom, but in a small village in Burkina Faso it is not unusual to see someone sitting atop one of the fearsome reptiles.   People in Bazoule, around 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the capital Ouagadougou, share their pond with more than 100 of the razor-toothed creatures.   "We got used to the crocodiles when we were young, swimming in the water with them and all that," said Pierre Kabore, just a few metres (yards) away from a crocodile feasting on chicken provided by the village.  

"Now we can always approach them and sit on them -- and if you have the courage, you can lie on them too. There's no problem, they are sacred crocodiles. They don't do anything to anyone."   According to local legend, the startling relationship with the predators dates back to at least the 15th century.   The village was in the grip of an agonising drought until the crocodiles led women to a hidden pond where the population could slake their thirst.   "The villagers organised a party to celebrate and thank the reptiles," Kabore said.

A celebration known as Koom Lakre is still held every year during which villagers make sacrifices and ask the animals to grant their wishes of health, prosperity and a good harvest.    Far from being considered a threat, the crocodiles are deemed to have a mystical connection with Bazoule.   "Crocodiles are represented as the soul of our ancestors and if one of them dies, they are buried and even given a funeral as if they were human," said Kabore.   "When a misfortune is about to happen in the village, they cry out. Elders are charged with interpreting the cries, and then make wishes to ward off bad luck."

- Tourism attraction -
The unusual contact between man and croc has drawn disbelieving tourists to the village to see for themselves.   On their arrival, travellers can buy a chicken which is hung on a stick by a guide and used to entice the crocodiles out of the pond so that visitors can pose with the creatures.    "It was nice to watch from a distance but sitting on one was a bit freaky," said Thomas Baspin, a young Frenchman who came to visit his grandparents in Burkina Faso.   "I'm glad I did it -- but I'm also glad it's over!" he quipped.   Tourism has become a big money-spinner for the impoverished villagers, but a three-year-old jihadist insurgency in Burkina Faso is taking its toll.

Ouagadougou has come under attack three times, most recently in March, when jihadists attacked the military headquarters and French embassy.   "We could have more than 10,000 visitors per year but at the moment, there's no more than 4,000 or 5,000," said Raphael Kabore, one of the guides.    Global warming is also believed to be having an impact. Rainfall levels are down each year, and the famous pond that is the crocodiles' home is shrinkin.
When it disappears, will the reptiles once more guide their human friends to a new watery home?
Date: Sat, 3 Mar 2018 00:00:57 +0100

Ouagadougou, March 2, 2018 (AFP) - Twin attacks on the French embassy in Burkina Faso and the country's military headquarters Friday left dozens dead or wounded, security sources said.   The apparently coordinated attacks underlined the struggle the fragile West African nation faces in containing a bloody and growing jihadist insurgency.   The government said the attack on the military was a suicide car bombing, adding that a regional anti-terrorism meeting may have been the target.

Eight members of the armed forces were killed by the blast and the parallel attack on the French embassy, while 80 were wounded, said Security Minister Clement Sawadogo. The minister said eight attackers had been shot dead.   "The vehicle was packed with explosives" and caused "huge damage", Sawadogo said, adding that it was a "suicide" attack.

Three security sources, two in France and one in West Africa, told AFP that at least 28 people were killed in the attack on the military HQ alone.   "Our country was once again the target of dark forces," President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said in a statement.   The violence began mid-morning when heavy gunfire broke out in the centre of the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou.

Witnesses said five armed men got out of a car and opened fire on passersby before heading towards the French embassy.    At the same time, the bomb went off near the headquarters of the Burkinabe armed forces and the French cultural centre, about a kilometre (half a mile) from the site of the first attack, other witnesses said.   Sawadogo said a meeting of the G5 Sahel regional counter-terrorism force was supposed to have been held at the headquarters but had been moved to another room.   "Perhaps it was the target. We do not know at the moment. In any case the room was literally destroyed by the explosion," said Sawadogo.

- 'Under control' -
Officials from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger were at the meeting, representing the G5 Sahel nations who have launched a joint military force to combat jihadists on the southern rim of the Sahara.   The completed force will be composed of 5,000 troops and aims to be fully operational by the end of the month.

It has already carried out operations against jihadist fighters with help from the French army.   French government sources said there were no French casualties and described the situation in Ouagadougou as "under control".   French President Emmanuel Macron telephoned his Burkinabe counterpart Kabore to express solidarity and send his condolences to the families of the slain security force members, his office said.

Macron, who made a high-profile visit to Burkina Faso in November, said the attacks "illustrate once more the threat weighing on the entire Sahel region".   Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said damage to the embassy was minor, and the mission would be able to resume normal operations "in two or three days".   He paid tribute to the Burkinabe forces defending the embassy: "It's thanks to the courage of these troops and gendarmes that no one was hurt."

- 'Overtones of terrorism' -
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Burkina Information Minister Remis Fulgance Dandjinou said the attack "has strong overtones of terrorism".    Burkina Faso has a history of military-backed coups as well as of jihadist attacks.    The insurgency has caused thousands of deaths, prompted tens of thousands to flee their homes and dealt crippling blows to economies that are already among the poorest in the world.

On August 13 last year, two assailants opened fire on a restaurant on Ouagadougou's main avenue, killing 19 people and wounding 21. No one has so far claimed responsibility.   On January 15 2016, 30 people, including six Canadians and five Europeans, were killed in a jihadist attack on a hotel and restaurant in the city centre.    That attack was claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Murabitoun group, which was led by one-eyed Algerian jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar.   A group called Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) also said some of its militants were involved.

- Joint Sahel force -
France, the former colonial power in the Sahel region, has deployed 4,000 troops to support the five-country G5 joint force.   On February 21, two members of the French counter-terrorism force were killed by a landmine near Mali's border with Niger and Burkina Faso. Twelve French soldiers have died since the campaign, called Operation Barkhane, was launched in August 2014.   The United Nations also has a 12,000-strong peacekeeping force in Mali called MINUSMA, which has taken heavy casualties. Four UN peacekeepers were killed by a mine blast on Wednesday in the centre of the country.
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