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A French soldier on an exercise in Burkina Faso uses a bomb detector as he searches for a roadside device, one of the deadliest tactics used by jihadists

Africa

Five civilian volunteers, one soldier killed in Burkina Faso ambush

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, March 8 – Six people including civilians were killed when a military detachment was ambushed in northern Burkina Faso, security sources said Sunday.

The nation, among the world’s poorest, is struggling with a jihadist insurgency that has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

“A unit from Gaskinde (Soum province) was ambushed on Saturday. One (soldier) sadly lost his life, and another was injured. On our side, there were five other casualties, all volunteers,” a security source told AFP. 

The five civilians were part of Volunteers for the Defence of the Nation (VDP), a network of civilian volunteers who help the army in their uphill battle against the various jihadist groups operating in the country.

“The Kourao VDP were patrolling the area and were targeted by armed individuals. A unit went to their aid and came under heavy fire,” said another security source, confirming the death of one soldier.

The source said “the enemy side” had also suffered casualties in the ensuing exchange of fire, without giving more details. 

The jihadist insurgency began in neighbouring Mali in 2012 and spread into its territory in 2015, killing more than 1,200 people and displacing roughly one million.

Last week six people, including a pregnant woman and a young girl, were killed in a roadside bomb, also in the country’s north.

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The poorly equipped and disorganised army is flailing, and the creation of the VDP was an attempt to bolster efforts against the insurgency.

Members receive 14 days training and are then sent out on patrols and surveillance missions, equipped with light arms. 

More than 100 have been killed in combat since January 2020.

Over 1,000 troops from Chad — pledged in a recent Sahel summit — are expected to arrive in days to help strengthen security in what is known as the three-border zone, where the frontiers of Burkina, Mali and Niger converge.

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