In the first attack of its kind since 2016, suspected militants from al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) killed at least 10 soldiers at an outpost in northern Ivory Coast.
Earlier today, a base near the town of Kafolo was targeted by “dozens of armed individuals” according to the AFP. Other details remain scarce, but Burkinabe sources have indicated that the attack occurred late last night.
Local reporting has also alleged that the attack was two-pronged in that it also targeted a nearby military checkpoint.
The Ivorian Ministry of Defense has confirmed today that 10 soldiers were killed and another six were wounded, while one attacker was killed.
But the AFP, citing another Ivorian source, has stated that at least 11 soldiers and one gendarme were killed in the assault. Another source indicated that at least two gendarmes may also be missing.
While no group has yet to claim today’s assault, local officials have placed blame on JNIM and its Katibat Macina. This comes as no surprise as the unit maintains bases in southwestern Burkina Faso that has often times crossed into Ivory Coast.
Today’s raid also comes after sustained Ivorian and Burkinabe operations against Katibat Macina in the same area of northern Ivory Coast last month. That joint operation, despite some setbacks, attempted to flush the jihadists out of northern Ivory Coast.
Both Ivorian and Burkinabe officials have also stated that the operations killed eight jihadists, while also arrested almost 40 of the militants. Additionally, Burkina Faso reported that Katibat Macina’s main base in Alidougou was destroyed.
Photos from at least one camp in the area were indeed released by Burkinabe forces. Though, the total destruction of the jihadist sanctuary in southwestern Burkina Faso has not been confirmed.
Today’s assault in Ivory Coast also casts doubt on this claim, as the jihadists most likely came from Burkinabe territory.
Inside Ivory Coast during last month’s operations, clashes between Ivorian forces and Katibat Macina were reported in the villages of Tinadalla and Diambeh as the military moved to dislodge the jihadists.
Local residents have stated that Katibat Macina’s men had been in the villages for more than a month, often moving between them and the Alidougou base in Burkina Faso.
Jeune Afrique has also reported that some of Katibat Macina’s members lived in northern Ivory Coast. While other reporting by the French outlet has alleged that Amadou Kouffa, the emir of Katibat Macina, sent figures to Ivory Coast last year to develop its networks in the country.
This is also the first suspected jihadist attack in Ivory Coast since March 2016, when al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s Sahara Emirate and Katibat al Murabitoon (two of JNIM’s predecessor groups) assaulted a beach resort in southern Ivory Coast. At least 16 people were killed in that raid.
As jihadist violence perpetrated by both al Qaeda and the Islamic State continues to push further south from Mali and Burkina Faso, many West African states are now beginning to feel threatened.
In addition to the Ivory Coast, Benin witnessed its first jihadist kidnapping last year. Nearby Togo has also stated its worries as this violence increasingly endangers its borders.
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