Infographics: Mapping Areas Under Jihadist Control In Burkina Faso

On January 24, 2022, the military in Burkina Faso seized power and overthrew President Roch Kaboré on grounds of the deteriorating security situation in the country. In the televised address, the military cited Kaboré’s inability to unite the West African nation and effectively respond to Islamist insurgency and other brewing conflicts that have burdened the country for a long time.

Since 2015, Burkina Faso has been caught up in an escalating wave of violence attributed to jihadist fighters allied to both al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) group. The violence has claimed more than 2,000 lives and has forced over 1.9 million people to flee their homes to neighbouring countries now considered to be safer than their homes.

Last weekend, at least 89 people were killed in the northern village of Seytenga in another organized attempt by Islamist rebels to take on more territories in the West African country.

According to security sources in the country, Islamist militants have taken control of up to 40% of Burkina Faso’s territory and have forced residents in these areas to abide by their harsh version of Islam and the military’s attempt to quell the insurgency has further drained the country’s scarce military resources.

 Mahamadou Issoufou, former president of Niger and a mediator from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), also confirmed the reports, claiming that only 60% of the country remains under state control, even as the country stares at the possibility of losing more territories to the rebel invasion.

Militancy is expected to continue spreading throughout the rural areas of the country as jihadists grow entrenched in the north and east and mobilize toward the west and south. Moreover, there remains the possibility of a high-profile attack in Ouagadougou, as has been seen periodically.

So far, the insurgency has already spread to Burkina Faso’s southern borders, with the potential of affecting neighbouring countries like Niger, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, and Benin.

According to openly sourced data, over 12 areas are under the total control of militants in Burkina Faso, with rebels pushing to capture areas surrounding the capital Ouagadougou.

Militant Groups Operating In Burkina Faso

Ansarul Islam – Founded in November 2016, the Ansarul Islam is the first jihadist group to be established in Burkina Faso by the now-deceased Ibrahim Malam Dicko. Ansarul Islam remains largely based in the Djibo, Soum Province area, though the group has conducted attacks throughout Sahel and Nord Regions and remains highly active in these areas. At the same time, it also functions as a self-defence group in certain areas to protect its supporters from banditry and intercommunal violence perpetrated by others.

Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam Waal Muslimeen (JNIM) – The al-Qaeda coalition formed in Mali in March 2017 including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) Sahara branch, Ansar Dine, al-Mourabitoun, and Macina Liberation Front under the leadership of Iyad Ag Ghaly. The group has carried out large-scale attacks in the capital cities of Burkina Faso, Mali, and the Ivory Coast. Over the past year, JNIM has increasingly expanded its area of operations into Burkina Faso, at least into Sahel, Est, Centre-Est, Centre-Nord, Nord, and Boucle du Mouhoun regions.

Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) – Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui pledged allegiance to the Islamic State on behalf of al-Mourabitoun in May 2015. Al-Sahraoui and ISGS later claimed responsibility for several attacks in Burkina Faso and Niger and were acknowledged by the Islamic State central organization in October 2016. ISGS has since expanded its area of operations, focusing on the border of Mali and Niger, particularly in the Ansongo Menaka Partial Wildlife Reserve, as well as along the Niger-Burkina Faso border. However, the group has retained a much smaller profile in terms of propaganda. Their most notable attack was the October 2017 ambush of a US special operations team near Tongo Tongo, Niger.

Patsy Nwogu

Reporting on data-driven featured stories and investigations.

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