Nine civilian army auxiliaries and three soldiers were killed Thursday in simultaneous attacks by suspected jihadists in northern Burkina Faso.
Gunmen "attacked the military detachment in the rural commune of Bourzanga", in the Centre-North region, then "positions of the VDP (Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland, auxiliaries) in the localities of Alga and Boulounga located in the same commune", killing a total of nine VDP and three soldiers, according to a security source.
"Three soldiers were killed in Bourzanga and nine volunteers in Alga," the security source said, adding that "some defence and security forces and volunteers were wounded. A local VDP official said that six of them had "fallen in Alga and three in Boulounga", adding that "several assailants were also shot dead".
"During their response to these coordinated attacks, the armed forces and the volunteers neutralised around 30 terrorists," a second security source said, confirming the various attacks.
Burkina Faso, where the military took power in January promising to make the fight against jihad their priority, is facing, like several neighbouring countries, the violence of armed jihadist movements affiliated to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, which have killed thousands of people and displaced some two million since 2015.
More than 40% of Burkina Faso's territory is outside state control, according to official figures. At the end of January, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba overthrew President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who was accused of being unable to curb jihadist violence.
However, the security situation has not improved and attacks attributed to jihadist groups have even multiplied in recent months, targeting civilians and soldiers alike. In early July, 34 civilians were killed in two separate attacks in the north and northwest.
In mid-June, 86 civilians were massacred by jihadists in Seytenga (north), one of the worst killings in the country's history. The attack prompted the authorities to create two "zones of military interest" where "all human presence is prohibited" and where the army is conducting operations against jihadists in the north and east, the regions most targeted by the attacks.
The army acknowledged on Wednesday the death of civilians during air strikes against "terrorist groups" in eastern Burkina Faso, without specifying the number, while local residents interviewed by AFP spoke of "about thirty" killed.