Burkina Faso's new military government said Oct. 26 that the country is on a "war footing," and launched a drive to recruit 50,000 civilian defense volunteers to help the overstretched army fight jihadist insurgents. The recruits receive two weeks of basic training and then join the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP), a village-based militia network. Created in 2020, the VDP was supposed to represent each "region, ethnicity, political opinion, and religious denomination." But the reality is few recruits have been drawn from the pastoralist Fulani, and the ethnicity—accused by some in the security forces of siding with the jihadists—has been targeted in extra-judicial killings.
Authorities in Libya announced Oct. 2 that they had discovered a mass grave containing 42 bodies in Sirte, a city that was once the so-called Islamic State's capital in the country. Libya's Missing Persons Authority said the bodies were found in a school, and samples were taken at a local hospital so that the victims could be identified.
When mutinous soldiers ousted Burkina Faso's democratically elected president in late January, they vowed to do a better job of securing the Sahelian country from attacks linked to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State. But violence has only increased over the past months, draining public confidence in the junta, threatening coastal West African states, and worsening a humanitarian crisis that has now displaced almost two million people–around one in 10 Burkinabé.
Dozens of militants believed to be associated with the Islamic State's "Sinai Province" (Wilayat Sinai) on Aug. 11 attempted to besiege targets including power transformers and railway facilities in the city of El Qantara Sharq, on the eastern bank of Egypt's Suez Canal. The militans barred access to the sites, but dispersed as security forces advanced. Attacks by the ISIS affiliate have been mounting in the Sinai Peninsula, which has seen a sporadic insurgency for over a decade. In May, militants attacked a water pumping station near the Canal, killing 16 members of the military force guarding it. (MEE, The New Arab)
The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on July 20 released a report holding the ruling Taliban regime responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and inhumane punishments in the first 10 months since they seized power. In total, UNAMA found that Taliban forces engaged in 239 extrajudicial killings, 313 arbitrary arrests and detentions, 46 cases of incommunicado detention, and 73 instances of torture. Most of the incidents targeted former Afghan National Defense & Security Forces (ANDSF) soldiers, officials from the previous government, ISIL-KP members, or National Resistance Front fighters. UNAMA also identified an additional 217 instances of degrading punishments and 118 uses of excessive force against civilians. Finally, Taliban forces also engaged in at least 163 rights violations targeting journalists and 64 targeting human rights defenders.
It's been a year since forces from Rwanda and a southern African regional bloc deployed to Mozambique's northernmost Cabo Delgado province to battle a jihadist insurgency. Yet attacks are rising again, with more people displaced last month (over 60,000) than at any time this year. Foreign troops helped capture major towns from the insurgents—known locally as al-Shabab—allowing some displaced people to return home. But scattered fighters regrouped and are now spreading their attacks to southern parts of the province previously untouched by conflict. The new incursions have led to reports of beheadings and sparked security fears in Pemba, the provincial capital and a hub for aid operations. Humanitarian groups are calling for increased funds, with around 800,000 people uprooted since the start of the insurgency in late 2017. The militants are affiliated to the so-called Islamic State, but a mix of local issues is driving the war.
More than 306,000 civilian were killed in Syria between March 2011 and March 2021, according to new estimates released June 28 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. According to the latest findings, civilians represent an overwhelming majority of the estimated 350,209 total deaths identified since the start of the civil conflict.
Scores of Malians demonstrated June 21 in the town of Bankass, in central Mopti region, to demand state protection after more than 130 civilians were killed by presumed jihadist militants in three nearby villages over the past days. The massacres in Diallassagou, Dianweli and Deguessagou localities are said to have been carried out by the Katiba Macina, a militant group led by Fulani preacher Amadou Kouffa. The gunmen burned huts and stole cattle in addition to killing villagers. The Katiba Macina is apparently an offshoot of the Qaeda-aligned Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM). However, in Mopti region, traditionally known to the Fulani as Macina, the violence appears to have taken on an ethnic cast. In March 2019, more than 160 Fulani civilians were massacred at the village of Ogossagou. (Africa News, Africa News, TRT, AFP, El Pais)