Nine soldiers among 15 killed in Burkina Faso’s north

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Fifteen people were killed, including nine soldiers, in coordinated jihadi attacks in northern Burkina Faso on Sunday, the army said.

Two military detachments, in Gaskinde and Pobe Mengao in Soum province in the Sahel region were hit by “terrorists” Sunday morning, wounding more than two dozen people, said the army in a statement. Security operations are underway in both areas, it said.

The attacks are the latest in a series of increased violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic state across the country that’s killed thousands and displaced 2 million people.

Earlier this month, 16 soldiers were killed in the center-north region and at least 40 security forces were killed in the last two weeks of March, according to an internal security report for aid groups seen by The Associated Press.

The military junta, which overthrew a democratically elected government in January, is struggling to stem the violence while trying to create new strategies to secure the country. Last week the government said it was going to support community leaders in talking with some jihadis in order to bring back locals who had joined them.

However, community leaders said there was little guidance on what that entailed and that this attack casts doubt on the process.

“The situation is confusing. There is talk of dialogue and at the same time there are attacks,” Ousmane Amirou Dicko, the Emir of Liptako, told the AP.

“Perhaps a desire to ‘negotiate’ from a position of strength, for some, or to make the dialogue fail for others,” he said.

Conflict analysts say the indiscriminate attacks signal a persistent militant campaign and cast doubts on the administration’s ability to contain and subdue the jihadis, said Laith Alkhouri, CEO of Intelonyx Intelligence Advisory, which provides intelligence analysis. “It’s a task that’ll likely define their governance,” he said.

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