The death toll from the terrorist attack on a village in Burkina Faso has gone past 160. Local officials say the bodies were found in three mass graves. The scale of the incident is such that there is still concern that the death toll could still significantly rise. The attack is the worst-ever terrorist incident in the West African nation and one of the worst in the world in recent years. Much of Solhan village, including homes and the local market, was also set on fire. Although no group has taken responsibility, the country has been fighting Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists for several years now. In fact, the last two months have also seen two other significant attacks, with 14 killed in one attack and 30 in the other.
Unlike some other countries with serious security problems, Burkina Faso is in the unusual situation of being surrounded by countries that are themselves facing severe issues with militant groups. Problems in the Sahel region of North Africa began in 2012 when militants began taking control of a large swathe of Mali. Since then, the militancy has spread into almost every country in the region, which spans across the continent between the Sahara Desert and the Sudanian savanna. Fast-forward to 2021, kidnappings, raids and violence in many other forms are being reported every day. Over one million people have been displaced from their homes in Burkina Faso since fighting increased two years ago. A massive anti-militant operation launched by the Burkinabe government last month appears to have failed to push back the terrorists.
France is the main foreign party in the fighting, supporting government forces in Mali, Chad, Mauritania, and Niger, along with Burkina Faso. All of these countries are also former French colonies. However, the French recently halted aid to Mali over a military coup in the country. Some analysts feel the French decision, right or wrong, may have emboldened terrorists, another reminder of the fraught balance between ‘exporting’ democratic values and ‘exporting’ peace.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2021.