Overview: Terrorist attacks continued to increase steadily in 2020. Security incidents included the use of IEDs, kidnapping, small-arms attacks, and targeted killings in an expanding part of the country in the North, the East, and the South. Targets appeared to shift from military and gendarme units to civilians and volunteer defense forces. The African Center for Strategic Studies noted in its July 21 report that the majority of violent attacks in the Sahel from July 2019 to June 2020 were in Burkina Faso (516 versus 361 in Mali and 118 in Niger). The active terrorist organizations remain ISIS-GS, the homegrown Ansaroul Islam, and JNIM (the last an incorporation of the Sahara Branch of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Murabitoun, Ansar al-Dine, and the Macina Liberation Front). Activity is concentrated in Est, Nord, and Sahel regions and along the borders with Mali and Niger. There are more than one million internally displaced persons in Burkina Faso, the great majority of whom were driven from their homes by instability caused by extremist violence.
Early 2020 saw a sharp increase in terrorist attacks directed at the civilian population. In the first month of the year, more than 100 civilians were killed in targeted attacks in northern provinces. No group claimed responsibility for any of the incidents. In July, presumed terrorists conducted three attacks in three different parts of the country, targeting civilians and burning more than a dozen schools to the ground. Terrorists continued to target traditional and political leaders for assassination, with about two dozen incidents in the first six months of the year.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: Violent extremists concentrated their attacks on civilians, humanitarian assistance programs, and volunteer defense forces, expanding from prior attacks that largely targeted military and police personnel and other associated facilities.
- On May 30, assailants who self-identified on social media as members of JNIM, attacked a gendarme-escorted convoy contracted by the World Food Program (WFP) to deliver food aid to internally displaced persons. Gendarmes and civilians were reportedly killed. This was one of three attacks on WFP convoys in a two-month period.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no significant legislative changes since 2019. The antiterrorist judicial police (Brigade Spéciale des Investigations Antiterroristes, or BSIAT) continued to prepare cases for prosecution, and the specialized CT court referred numerous completed investigative cases for trial, but no terrorism-related cases have been adjudicated and more than 900 terror suspects remain in pretrial detention at the High-Security Prison.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Burkina Faso is a member of the Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), a Financial Action Task Force (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. The cash-intensive nature of Burkina Faso’s economy complicates the investigation of terrorist financing activities. Terrorist groups fund their activities primarily through the trafficking of illicit goods in coordination with organized criminal groups, robbery, and kidnapping, often targeting gold mining operations, rather than through sophisticated money laundering schemes. CENTIF-BF tracks terrorist financing and refers cases to the specialized financial or terrorism courts for prosecutions. No criminal terrorist financing cases were charged in 2020, according to the CENTIF-BF chief.
Countering Violent Extremism: There were no significant updates since 2019.
International and Regional Cooperation: Burkina Faso continues its participation in the G-5 Sahel — along with Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger — which promotes security, development, and governance within and across Sahel member countries. Burkinabe investigators participated in regional cybersecurity programs, and the U.S. Department of Justice brought Nigerien judges to Ouagadougou to mentor Burkinabe judges on handling terrorism trials.