The north of Burkina Faso was struck overnight from Friday to Saturday by two attacks, one of which left at least 138 dead, the deadliest in this country since the start of jihadist violence in 2015. These attacks were committed in the so-called “three borders” area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, regularly targeted by deadly assaults by suspected jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State against civilians and soldiers.
“During the night from Friday to Saturday, armed individuals carried out a deadly incursion in Solhan, in the province of Yagha. The toll, still provisional, is of a hundred people killed, men and women”, told AFP a safe source.
“Several wounded succumbed to their wounds and new bodies were found. The balance sheet is still provisional, is 138 dead,” said a local elected official on Saturday evening, specifying that “the bodies were buried in mass graves”. According to this elected official, “there are several dozen injured”.
The attack and the provisional toll of a hundred dead were quickly confirmed by the government, which said in a statement that the victims are “civilians without distinction of age, killed by terrorists” and that “several homes and the market (of Solhan) were set on fire. “
“Faced with this tragedy of the dark forces, a national mourning of 72 hours, from this day June 5 at 00:00 to Monday June 7 at 11:59 p.m., is decreed”, adds the government which affirms that “the defense and security forces are hard at work to neutralize these terrorists and restore peace to the population “.
In a message of condolence to the families of the victims, Burkinabè President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré denounced “this barbaric attack” and “despicable”. “We must remain united and united against these obscurantist forces,” he added.
The opposition leader of Burkina, Eddie Komboigo, estimated that “the massacre of our populations, we keep repeating it, must cease unconditionally. All measures must be taken to protect the Burkinabè”.
According to a local source, “the attack, which was reported around 2:00 am local time (4:00 am in Belgium), first targeted the post of the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland”, the VDP, civilian auxiliaries of the army, and “the attackers then visited the concessions (houses) and carried out executions”.
Solhan is a small town located about fifteen kilometers from Sebba, the capital of Yagha province which has recorded numerous attacks attributed to jihadists in recent years.
“Since this morning, we have witnessed flows of internally displaced people fleeing to Sebba”, according to the local elected official. “These displacements also caused other victims because three people died on the Solhan-Sebba axis, the cart which transported them having jumped on an artisanal mine”.
On May 14, the Minister of Defense Chériff Sy, and members of the military hierarchy went to Sebba, assuring that the situation had returned to normal, after numerous military operations.
This massive attack followed closely another, carried out late Friday evening, on a village in the same region, Tadaryat, in which at least 14 people, including a civilian auxiliary, were killed.
The attacks come a week after two other attacks in the same area, in which four people, including two members of the VDP, were killed.
Created in December 2019, the VDPs work alongside the armed forces for surveillance, information and protection missions, after 14 days of military training.
They also act as trackers and often fight with the army, at the cost of heavy losses, with more than 200 dead in their ranks since 2020, according to an AFP count.
On May 17 and 18, fifteen villagers and a soldier had already been killed in two assaults on a village and a patrol in the northeast of the country, according to the governor of the Burkinabè Sahel region.
Since May 5, faced with the resurgence of jihadist attacks, the armed forces have launched a large-scale operation in the northern and Sahel regions.
Despite the announcement of numerous operations of this type, the security forces are struggling to stem the spiral of jihadist violence which has left more than 1,400 dead since 2015 and displaced more than a million people, fleeing areas of violence.