Violent Extremism Takes Root in Burkina Faso – By Roland Benedikter and Ismaila Ouedraogo – April 25, 2017


JOE PENNEY / REUTERS The burned-out exterior of “Cappuccino” restaurant is seen in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, January 17, 2016, a day after security forces retook the Splendid Hotel from al Qaeda fighters who seized it in an assault that killed two dozen people from at least 18 countries and marked a major escalation of Islamist militancy in West Africa.

 

On March 10, more than 1,000 teachers and students held a silent protest in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. They marched from the city center to the Ministry of National Education to stage a sit-in and demand state protection of their schools. Just a week before, a radical Islamist had shot dead a teacher in the village of Koursayel in the northern province of Soum, one of many such killings since terrorists found their way to Burkina Faso a year ago.

In January 2016, the sleepy capital of Ouagadougou was hit by a deadly terrorist attack. Armed fighters carried out a 15-hour siege on hotels and cafés in the city center, leaving 28 dead and 56 injured. In March 2017, terrorists expanded operations to the northern countryside, targeting police posts and military installments as well as educational facilities. At least two people were kidnapped and a school was burned down. Although one key jihadist was killed and others arrested, the psychological damage was done.

Over the last year, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansarul Islam (Defenders of Islam) have sought to turn the northern part of Burkina Faso into a stronghold through which they could potentially build a new alliance with the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and turn parts of Burkina Faso into a sanctuary for jihadist recruitment and training following ISIS’ losses in Iraq and Syria.

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