Terrorism & Insurgency

Likely new jihadist cell in eastern Burkina Faso poses elevated kidnap, death and injury risks to foreigners

13 September 2018

Burkinabé soldiers take part in military anti-terrorism exercises on 13 April at the Kamboinsé General Bila Zagre military camp near Ouagadougou. Source: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

Key Points

  • Sustained IED attacks against military targets in Burkina Faso’s Est region, as yet unclaimed, indicate the formation of a new terrorist cell.
  • In addition to Niger, the area spans borders with Togo and Benin, suggesting a new hotspot where jihadists are seeking to exploit growing anti-government sentiments to expand their area of operations.
  • Increased capacity will be indicated by attempts at higher-profile attacks, raising kidnap-for-ransom, death, and injury risks to foreigners in the zone, particularly mining personnel and isolated aid workers.


President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré on 8 September pledged to eradicate jihadist attacks that have spread to Burkina Faso’s Est region, killing at least 16 people, mostly military personnel, in the past month alone.

President Kaboré said the attacks were aimed at a “vast destabilisation operation” and at sapping the defence forces, but pledged to send more military personnel to the region. He also urged all citizens to respect the armed forces, which have been criticised for failing to restore security.

The assaults have targeted military and police convoys in the Komondjari, Kompienga, Gourma, and Tapoa provinces of Est region, using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), followed up by gunfire attacks. Schools, government buildings, and gendarmeries have also been attacked and set alight, with affected towns including Kabonga, Tankoualou, Foutouri, Bargadé, and Gayeri. The region also contains large gold reserves around Boungou, which international companies are beginning to exploit. On 11 August, five gendarmes and a civilian were killed when a police convoy escorting vehicles from the Boungou gold mine were hit by an IED, after which unidentified individuals opened fire. In recent incidents, a total of 10 soldiers were killed in two separate IED explosions on 28 August and 5 September along the road from the regional capital, Fada N’Gourma, to Pama, near the Togolese border.

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