At least 40 civilians were killed in a massive jihadist attack on a military base on Sunday in Djibo, northern Burkina Faso, which has been plagued by such violence since 2015, the UN said Tuesday (November 28th). This is the first civilian casualty toll from the assault announced earlier on Tuesday to AFP by Burkinabe security sources, who added that dozens of them were later killed by the army.
A few soldiers were also killed, they said, without giving the number or mentioning civilian casualties. Djibo, close to the so-called tri-border area between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali where jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are active, has been besieged by the latter for more than a year. Several convoys seeking to resupply her were attacked.
40 civilians killed, 42 wounded
A large number of fighters" from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) "attacked a military base, homes and camps for internally displaced people in the town of Djibo in the Sahel region, killing at least 40 civilians and wounding more than 42," the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said. in a statement, saying he was "appalled".
Those responsible must be held to account after rigorous, impartial and independent investigations by the authorities," he added, stressing that "deliberately targeting civilians or individuals not taking a direct part in hostilities constitutes a war crime."
Earlier on Tuesday, a security source said that "the military detachment of Djibo" had been "the target of a large-scale jihadist attack perpetrated by armed terrorist groups", adding that "a few" soldiers had "paid the supreme sacrifice to hold Djibo". It added that an army response had resulted in "heavy losses to the enemy".
'More than 400 terrorists'
According to another security source, "the attack began around 15:00 (local and GMT) and was carried out by several hundred armed men who tried in vain to enter the (military) base. They managed to breach armored vehicles, but were hit" by army aircraft.
The attackers, who came en masse in motorcycles and pick-up trucks, also fired several heavy weapons, some of which were aimed at "air support", the same source said. It further claimed that the attack was carried out by "several waves of armed groups" for "more than three hours". On Monday, "the hunt for the surviving (jihadists) also made it possible to neutralize several dozen other terrorists," the security source also confirmed.
According to the official Burkina Faso Information Agency (AIB), "more than 400 terrorists (were) decimated during the counter-offensive of the Burkinabe Armed Forces against nearly 3,000 criminals who tried to seize the town of Djibo."
Sow death and desolation, before taking control of the city
This "horde of terrorists" had "set itself the mission of sowing death and desolation in Djibo, before taking control of the city," according to AIB. The Sahel region, in which Djibo is located, is the most affected by the jihadist attacks that have bloodied Burkina Faso. The country has been ruled since 2022 by the military who seized power by force.
Captain Ibrahim Traoré, author of the second coup in eight months in September 2022, has made the fight against jihadist groups a priority, about 40% of whose territory is outside the control of the army. Since 2015, Burkina Faso has been caught in a spiral of violence perpetrated by jihadist groups, which were already striking neighbouring Mali and Niger.
They have caused more than 17,000 civilian and military deaths over the past eight years, including more than 6,000 since the beginning of 2023, according to the NGO Acled, which lists the victims of conflicts around the world. The violence has also led to the internal displacement of more than two million people, according to the National Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation (CONASUR).