Burkina Faso cracks down on motorbike-riding extremists

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Growing attacks by motorbike-riding extremists who flee into the forest have led Burkina Faso’s government to ban the use of motorbikes and bike carts from sunset to sunrise in its troubled east.

The West African nation also announced this week it will monitor cars and trucks in the area near the border with Niger, which is fast becoming a hideout for extremist groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State organization.

The government says some 20 members of security forces were recently killed in the region. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore has said the country faces “a destabilization process” from extremist groups.

Regional official Jean Paul Compaore called the new movement restrictions an economic disadvantage but “it is the price to pay to get peace.”

The restrictions could have unwanted side effects, warned Oumar Paul Koalaga, who leads the local branch of the Network of Reaction and Strategy on Security in the Sahel, an international organization.

“Populations can become volatile and can react to freedom restrictions,” especially if income drops and investors stay away, he said.

Once-peaceful Burkina Faso experienced its first major extremist attack in 2015 and now is a member of a five-nation regional counterterror force launched last year.

Extremists from Mali and Niger have penetrated the country and recruited youth frustrated by poverty and perceived state insecurity. Meanwhile, a local extremist group has grown.

Since 2015, 118 have been killed in extremist attacks. This year alone 69 people, including 31 members of security forces, have been killed, according to government statistics.

Wildlife also has suffered, with game sites burned down.

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