At Least 132 Killed in Jihadi Attack in Africa's Burkina Faso, Hundreds Flee Villages

A jihadi attack in Burkina Faso's Solhan village has left at least 132 dead and countless wounded, officials said Monday. The assault was the deadliest the country has seen in years and caused almost 800 people to flee to the nearby town of Sebba, the Associated Press reported.

The government said that jihadis began shooting people and burning down homes and the village market this past Friday night. Many of the wounded civilians were transported to hospitals in the town of Dori and Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou. An aid worker reported seeing more than 40 people with bullet and burn wounds fleeing the attack, while an anonymous local journalist told the AP he saw wounded victims lying all over the Dori hospital floor.

The Burkina Faso army has failed to squash jihadi attacks for five years. Héni Nsaibia, a senior researcher at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project, said that Sahel analysts believe the assault was executed by the Al-Qaeda-linked group JNIM, the most dominant faction in the province.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Solhan Attack
A man reads the L'Observateur Paalga newspaper in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, on June 7. Suspected jihadis massacred at least 132 civilians, including around 20 children, in Solhan, a village in Burkina Faso's volatile north. Olympia de Maismont/AFP via Getty Images

"After the attack in Solhan, the assailants withdrew and also planted explosives to prevent army access, both the geographic aspect and the use of explosives in this manner is not typical for Islamic State, but rather JNIM modus operandi," Nsaibia said.

The attacks were a response to the presence of volunteer fighters in the area, community volunteers fighting alongside the army. Since the program started last year, volunteers have become both perpetrators of violence against civilians as well as targets for the jihadis who accuse them of supporting the army, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.

"The militarization of the war against terrorism has created more insecurity than benefits, and both sides, jihadis and pro-state militias are targeting civilians," said Tanguy Quidelleur, a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of social sciences and politics who has researched self-defense groups in the Sahel.

The West African country had seen a relative calm in recent months, after a secret cease-fire between JNIM and the government was reached. Earlier this year, jihadis told the AP they were instructed to lay down their guns and don't understand the recent surge in fighting.

"I think there are attacks again because there are new people recruited by the group [and]...not everyone who laid down his gun returned to the community," a former jihadi who left the group in October told the AP.

The fighting has created the world's fastest-growing displacement crisis, and more than 1.2 million people are internally displaced in the country.

"The slaughter of over 100 civilians, the highest number of casualties from a single attack in recent years in Burkina Faso, marks a shocking escalation in the violence that has engulfed the country since 2015. Killed in the middle of the night by armed assailants, the victims include women and children who were given no choice to flee, no chance to live," said Manenji Mangundu, country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Burkina Faso.

Burkina-Spain ConflictSpanish airforce personnel carry the coffins
Spanish air force personnel carry coffins on April 30 with the bodies of Spanish journalists and an Irish ONG chief killed in eastern Burkina Faso. AFP via Getty Images/Javier Soriano