JNIM documents training camp in Burkina Faso

The Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al-Qaeda’s branch for the Sahel and wider West Africa, released photos earlier today documenting a rudimentary training camp somewhere in Burkina Faso. 

The photos offer the first public glimpse at JNIM’s training structure inside Burkina Faso, where it, as well as militants from its rival organization Islamic State Sahel Province, control at least 40% of Burkinabe territory. 

In the pictures, militants are seen undergoing basic firearms training and drills and what appears to be maneuver drills with the group’s fleet of motorcycles. The training and drills appear quite rudimentary, while the camp itself appears to not host any permanent structures. 

The real significance of the photos, however, lies in two simple implications that JNIM appears to be highlighting. First, this makeshift camp is likely just one of many across the Sahel that JNIM can quickly erect to train new recruits. For example, previous media releases of JNIM’s training camps have been in Mali

With JNIM operating across Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and even several coastal West African states, these photos thus act as a representation of its overall training apparatus across these countries. 

As it expands and takes on new recruits, many such training camps are likely operating in this vast area, documenting its ever expanding zones of influence. 

Second, the photos also highlight how comfortable JNIM, and indeed much of the Sahelian jihadi ecosystem, are at conducting such exercises of congregating large groups of fighters in open areas. 

With international forces largely out of the region and local regimes fending for themselves alongside Russian paramilitary troops, JNIM is signaling its relative strength in flaunting such exercises in the faces of the Sahelian military juntas. 

Select photos released by JNIM are below:

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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