Burkina Faso’s army says it has arrested at least 60 people suspected of having links to militant groups during an anti-terror operation in the country’s volatile north.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Burkinabe army said counter-terrorism forces had carried out the security operation on July 8 to search suspicious areas in the Sahel region, which borders Mali to the north and Niger to the east.
“This work, with the support of the air force, allowed the dismantling of terrorist bases and the arrest of a hundred suspicious individuals,” the statement said. “After verification, 60 of them were transferred to the police and the others were released.”
The army said explosives, batteries, and electric wires used in the manufacturing of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were seized during the raids, adding that three members of their forces had also sustained injuries in the operation.
The counter-terrorism operation was launched a day after two people, including the chief of a village, had been killed by armed gunmen in Hocoulourou, a village near the border with Mali. The victims had been abducted two weeks earlier.
“These executions were perpetrated by unidentified armed individuals who disappeared back into the wild after their crimes,” Burkina Faso’s Interior Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
The country’s Sahel region has been the scene of regular attacks by militant groups over the past three years.
Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, shares a northern border with Mali, where the al-Qaeda terrorist group is operative.
French Special Forces have been present in Burkina Faso since 2010 on a declared mission to help regional governments in the Sahel — particularly Mali — tackle extremism.
France is a former colonizer of the region.
In March, nearly 30 people, including civilians and soldiers, were killed when al-Qaeda-linked gunmen launched a coordinated attack in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, targeting the army headquarters and the French Embassy.
In May, more than 200 people, including some suspected terrorists were arrested during a joint security operation between Burkina Faso, Benin, Ghana, and Togo.