French forces out of Burkina Faso, into Ivory Coast
France has officially ended its operations in Burkina Faso on Feb. 20, a month after the ruling junta there terminated a military accord that allowed the former colonial power to fight jihadists. French forces remain in the greater region, however. The move came as French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu visited Côte d'Ivoire, pledging to boost military support as jihadist attacks hit coastal West African states. (TNH)
Podcast: West Africa's forgotten wars
In Episode 161 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg provides an overview of the under-reported conflicts in West Africa, where government forces and allied paramilitary groups battle multiple jihadist insurgencies affiliated either with ISIS or al-Qaeda on a franchise model. Horrific massacres have been committed by both sides, but the Western media have only recently started to take note because of the geopolitical angle that has emerged: both Mali and Burkina Faso have cut long-standing security ties with France, the former colonial power, and brought in mercenaries from Russia's Wagner Group. In both countries, the pastoralist Fulani people have been stigmatized as "terrorists" and targeted for extra-judicial execution and even massacre—a potentially pre-genocidal situation. But government air-strikes on Fulani communities in Nigeria have received no coverage in the Western media, because of the lack of any geopolitical rivalry there; Nigeria remains firmly in the Anglo-American camp. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Somalia: US raids on ISIS stronghold
A US special forces raid in Somalia ordered by President Joe Biden killed a key regional ISIS leader, Bilal al-Sudani, the Pentagon said in a statement Jan. 26. Sudani apparently died in a gun-battle after US troops descended on a cave complex in a mountainous area of northern Somalia. No civilians were injured or killed in the operation, officials said. The statement did not specify the location of the raid, but the announcement followed reports in Somali media describing a US drone strike on a stronghold of the self-declared Islamic State-Somalia (ISS) in the Iskushuban area of the Cal Miskaad mountains, in the northern autonomous region of Puntland. (Defense Post, Military.com, LWJ)
Ethnically targeted killings in Burkina Faso: report
A human rights group in Burkina Faso on Jan. 3 reported that 28 people were found shot dead in the town of Nouna, in apparently ethnically targeted killings at the hands of a volunteer militia group. The Collective Against Impunity & Stigmatization of Communities (CISC) said the killings were perpetrated by members of the Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland (VDP). The VDP allegedly killed 21, including children, on Dec. 30, in a part of Nouna mostly inhabited by the minority Fula community. The report stated that the VDP appears to have targeted "resourceful" or "influential" people in the community. The report further found that similar extrajudicial executions were carried out by the VDP in the same community on Dec. 15, 18 and 22.
Qaeda franchise claims deadly assault in Togo
The Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (GSIM, or JNIM by its Arabic rendering), al-Qaeda's West African franchise, has claimed credit for an assault on Togolese forces that left at least 17 soldiers dead outside Tiwoli, a village close to the borders with Burkina Faso and Benin. In a brief online communique, JNIM said its "mujahedeen killed 16 tyrants, burned two cars, and captured 16 Kalashnikovs, 24 rifle magazines, and five motorcycles." Togolese media reported that fighters in large columns of vehicles mounted with heavy machine-guns raided the military outpost at Tiwoli on Nov. 24.
'War footing,' paramilitary drive in Burkina Faso
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.
Somalia: clan militia takes on al-Shabab
The jihadist group al-Shabab is facing a local clan-based rebellion in central Somalia—one the embattled Mogadishu government hopes might spread throughout its zones of control. As resistance to the insurgent group has grown, lawmakers and clan elders have been backing the self-organized militia in pitched battles against al-Shabab. The militia—known as Ma'awisley, a reference to the traditional sarong worn in Somalia's rural areas—is strongest in Middle Shabelle, Hiran and Galmudug regions of Hirshabelle and Central states. (TNH, VOA)
Attacks, displacement in post-coup Burkina Faso
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.
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