Country Report on Terrorism 2018 - Chapter 1 - Burkina Faso

Overview:  In 2018, terrorist activity continued in Burkina Faso’s northernmost region and spread to its easternmost region.  Individuals affiliated with Ansarul Islam, ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), and Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) – the umbrella group that formed after the Sahara Branch of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al-Murabitoun, Ansar al-Dine, and the Macina Liberation Front merged – conducted targeted assassinations, IED attacks, and raids on security and military outposts.  Terrorist groups used intimidation tactics in the region, exploiting weak governance, poverty, and chronic food insecurity.  The Burkinabe government conducted counterterrorism operations and increased its capacity to respond to and thwart terrorist attacks following the March 2 JNIM attack in Ouagadougou. Human Rights Watch documented numerous allegations of human rights violations by Burkinabe security forces in counterterrorism operations, particularly in the north of the country. The Burkinabe government is investigating these allegations.

In 2018, bilateral and regional cooperation increased.  Burkina Faso conducted operations with its G-5 Sahel Joint Force neighbors, mobilized French Operation Barkhane assets, and increased security cooperation with Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo.  U.S. support developed Burkina Faso’s counterterrorism capabilities to contain, disrupt, degrade, and defeat terrorist organizations.  In 2018, Embassy Ouagadougou delivered several new security assistance projects to support the G-5 Sahel Joint Force, UN peacekeeping operations, the Burkinabe Air Force, and the Burkinabe Gendarmerie.  The first US $1.5 million tranche of G-5 Sahel assistance provided equipment support to Burkina Faso.  U.S. Army Africa conducted the first-ever institutional capacity-building training to counter IEDs. The project included bomb detection equipment, training aids, and a train-the-trainer program to teach IED awareness.  Embassy Ouagadougou completed improvements to the Loumbila peacekeeping center and delivered Puma armored personnel carriers for training.

2018 Terrorist Incidents: Burkina Faso experienced an estimated 150 terrorist attacks across the country, primarily in the northern and easternmost regions.  Incidents included targeted assassinations, kidnappings, IEDs, VBIEDs, and attacks on schools, security outposts, police stations, and barracks.  IED attacks continued to target defense and security forces in the Nord and Sahel regions, and spread to the Est region.

The most sophisticated terrorist attack in Burkina Faso’s history took place on March 2, in Ouagadougou, where at least four armed assailants detonated a VBIED at the Burkinabe military headquarters while four assailants simultaneously launched an attack on the French Embassy.  JNIM claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed six soldiers and two gendarmes, and wounded 80 others. On August 11, five police officers and one civilian died after their convoy struck an IED in the Est region.  Larger groups of as many as 30 perpetrators conducted raids on security outposts in the Sahel region, such as during an October 3 attack on the Inata Gendarmerie that left one Burkinabe dead and another wounded.  On October 18, perpetrators assaulted the Djibo Gendarmerie with rocket-propelled grenades, wounding one gendarme and releasing 55 detainees.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Burkina Faso made no significant changes to its counterterrorism legal framework in 2018.

Burkina Faso’s law enforcement entities and intelligence agency demonstrated increased capacity to detect and prevent acts of terrorism. On May 22, the Gendarmerie Special Intervention Unit (SIU) dismantled a terrorist cell in Ouagadougou. The SIU killed three suspected terrorists, captured one suspected terrorist, and recovered weapons, ammunition, explosive making materials, and Burkinabe and French military uniforms.  The SIU also demonstrated an increased terror response capability by intervening quickly and effectively during the March 2 attack in Ouagadougou at the Burkinabe military headquarters and French Embassy.

Burkinabe security and law enforcement officials cited border security as a major area of concern, but continued to face significant resource constraints in confronting the issue. Burkina Faso continued to screen arriving and departing travelers at international airports and other points of entry using PISCES. Burkina Faso’s law enforcement conducted sweeping operations, arresting and detaining large groups of suspects.  On June 20, Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Security released a list of 146 individuals wanted on suspicion of terrorism on social media and in the local press, leading to several arrests.  There were approximately 80 open judicial investigations linked to terrorist attacks committed against civilians and security forces, which comprised about 537 individual defendants.  Some 535 alleged terrorists remain detained at Ouagadougou’s High Security Prison.

The United States provided counterterrorism assistance to Burkina Faso through the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Burkina Faso is a member of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), a FATF-style regional body. Burkina Faso’s FIU, the National Financial Information Processing Unit (CENTIF-BF), is a member of the Egmont Group, an informal network of FIUs aimed at combating money laundering and terrorist financing. CENTIF-BF tracks terrorist financing and secured 44 convictions related to fraud and money laundering throughout 2018.

Countering Violent Extremism: Burkina Faso remains actively engaged in countering violent extremism.  In 2018, the government provided US $269 million to support the Sahel Emergency Plan (Plan d’Urgence pour le Sahel) to strengthen the role of government, enhance community law enforcement, and generate economic opportunities in the Sahel region.  More than 40 percent of the plan’s activities were complete by 2018.  Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Territory increased efforts to monitor foreign influences on ideology by investigating financing streams of newly created religious groups.

International and Regional Cooperation: Burkina Faso is a member of the G-5 Sahel Joint Force and the AU’s 11-country Nouakchott Process to coordinate the regional response to terrorism and crime.  In October, Burkina Faso signed a Memorandum of Understanding to operationalize a joint force with Benin, Togo, and Niger.  Burkina Faso maintains two peacekeeping battalions in Mali as part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).  Burkina Faso’s total UN contribution exceeds 1,700 troops, more than 10 percent of its military.