ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Hundreds of rebels were killed as they tried to seize a town in northern Burkina Faso on Sunday, the state broadcaster reported, in one of the largest clashes in recent years in the West African nation under threat from fighters linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State.
More than 3,000 fighters tried to take control of Djibo town near Mali’s border, the broadcaster said Tuesday. It was not immediately clear how many civilians or security forces were killed. The area has frequent internet cuts, and the military government is known to crack down on civil society.
French medical group Doctors Without Borders said it treated locals injured in the attack.
Approximately half of Burkina Faso is outside government control. The landlocked country has been ravaged by jihadi attacks. Fighters have killed thousands and displaced more than 2 million people, further threatening the stability of the country that had two coups last year.
Located 210 kilometres (130 miles) from the capital of Ouagadougou, Djibo has been under blockade by rebels for more than a year, often struggling to provide essential services.
The government press agency Agence d’Information du Burkina reported that the rebels “launched massive attacks” on the town from various fronts as they tried to seize it during an hourslong assault which also targeted a military camp. At least 400 fighters were killed by security forces, it said.
Footage published by the state-run RTB Television showed large groups of people riding motorcycles as they appeared to flee aerial bombardment. The Associated Press could not confirm the authenticity of the videos.
“The fighting was particularly violent at the military camp of the locality. The combined action of ground troops and air vectors resulted in inflicting heavy defeat on the criminals,” the press agency reported.
Burkina Faso’s junta has been struggling to restore peace. The junta had accused the democratically elected government it overthrew of failing to do it.
Since the first coup in January 2022, the number of people killed by jihadis has nearly tripled compared with the 18 previous months, according to a report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.