Sahel Security Report - April 2021

Published on 30 Apr, 2021.


The instability in the Sahel remained unchanged in the last 4 weeks as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger suffered fatal attacks. More than 130 incidents and 191 fatalities were reported in the Sahel—Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger in the last month. Jihadist groups continued attacks on civilians and military installations across the region particularly in Northern Mali and the northeast region of Burkina Faso. Attacks also expanded further south as jihadist attacked security forces in Kafolo—Cote d’ Ivoire. The political tensions in Niger have however escalated, as a coup was attempted in Niamey. The inauguration of Mohammed Bazoum was held without any major events despite heightened security concerns due to the coup on 31st March. Intra jihadist tensions remained high following months of clashes between ISGS and JNIM fighters in Burkina Faso. Communal clashes also ensued in Mali following attacks on Fulani and Dogon communities. Scrutiny of security forces in the region continued following a probe that alleged extra-judicial killings and human right abuses by French forces in Mali. Several military operations are expected in the next month as Sahelian governments would want to retaliate against the deadly attacks suffered over the last month.


Security in Burkina Faso remains dire as both jihadist and security forces operations continue across the region. Armed operation intensified Multiple attacks were recorded in the Sahel region. On 10th March, armed men suspected to be ISGS fighters clashed with soldiers and local militia groups resulting in the death of two terrorists and one civilian in Tin-Agadel—Oudalan Province. Another attack involving an IED explosion was reported in the Soum Province. 6 people were killed after an ambulance struck an IED on the Mansila Solhan road. The IED is suspected to have been planted by JNIM fighters. The targeting of ethnic populations also continued with the killing of Fulanis in Kabaoua. Among the causalities were the village chief and his son. A number of incidents were also reported in the Seno Province; on 20th March, 5 militants and 1 VDP were killed following a clash between security forces and jihadists in the Gorgadji Commune. Infighting among armed groups remains high as clashes between JNIM and ISGS fighters were reported around Ayagoru—Oudalan Province. The conflict between both jihadi groups left fighters injured and compromised ISGS strategic positions in the region. In the Cente-Nord region clashes between terrorists and local militia groups such as the Volunteer for the Defence of the Motherland (VDP) intensified—2 VDPS and a civilian were victims of an ISGS attack in the Namentenga Province. The situation in the Eastern region remains precarious as jihadi groups maintained their operations across the area. On 7th March, ISGS fighters (suspected) kidnapped 2 people, one suspected to be a member of the local defence militia—Koglweogo. The eastern region has become a strategic location for jihadist operation in Burkina Faso. Terrorists have constantly targeting artisanal mining sites with the objective of gaining control on mining revenue to fund jihadi operations across the Sahel.


The Sahelian crisis continues to escalate in Mali following several violent attacks reported in the last 4 weeks. The majority of jihadi operations were targeted at security installations in the Mopti and Gao regions. On 15th March, jihadists suspected to linked to ISGS attacked an army patrol around Tessist—Gao region killing at least 33 soldiers. Another army instalment suffered an attack from JNIM fighters in Dinangorou. A soldier and 8 terrorists dead during the attack. Incidents of extrajudicial killings were also reported following the killing of six Fulani civilians in Douentza and Youwarou—Mopti Region. To address the heightened ethnic tensions between Fulani and Dogon communities, Col. Maj. Ismael Wague (National reconciliation minister) met leaders of the Dogon-self-defense militia—Dana Ambassagou to discuss the constant targeting and killing of Fulanis accused of supporting jihadi operations in the region. tensions reached higher levels after the Dogon group refused to sign a Fulani-Dogon peace agreement in the Koro district. Some headways were made in the Segou region after a ceasefire was agreed between Katiba Macina—JNIM affiliated cell and Bambara communal defence group while jihadists operating in the Farabougou agreed to suspend sieges in the village for a month. This comes after several months of clashes between terrorist groups are state forces for the control of the village. Public trust towards local and international forces continued to deteriorate French forces were again accused of killing civilians during Barkhane operations. The situation has been confirmed by a UN investigation indicating an operation—airstrike conducted under Barkhane in January killed 19 civilians near Bounti—Mopti region. Regarding politics, the transitional government i.e President Ndaw continues to receive criticism from the public. The public has accused the transitional president of being passive and not vocal on important issues in the country. With less than a year left for elections, there are several uncertainties on the major candidates for the upcoming polls. According to reports, there are discussions among members of the transitional council to run to the upcoming polls despite the transitional charter barring such arrangements. The decision of a transitional government running in the upcoming elections would be met with strong disapproval from the opposition coalition and the public which could disrupt the election and delay the transferring of power to an elected government.


Insecurity in Niger has been at its highest as multiple attacks with devastating causalities were reported in the region over the last 4 weeks. The situation was worsened with political tensions in the capital—Niamey. Jihadist operations over this period were mostly concentrated in the Tillaberi and Tahoua regions in the west. On March 21st, Niger suffered the deadliest attack recorded in the last 2 years. Jihadist suspected to be associated with ISGS launched simultaneous attacks in multiples villages—Intazayene, Bakorat and Wistane in the Tahoua regions. The attacks left 141 civilians dead. In the Tillaberi region (south-west), armed men ambushed vehicles around the Chinagoder locality killing at least 66 people. The attack is suspected to be targeted and tribally motivated as most of the victims were members of the Zarma ethnic group given the tension between ethnic groups in the region. In the southeast—Diffa region, fighters associated with Boko Haram continued violent operation. Boko Haram fighters attacked a village—Garna Wanzam in the Gueskerou commune killing four civilians.

The political tensions that had ensured following the 2nd round presidential elections heightened with a coup attempt in the capital on 31st March. The coup was successively foiled by presidential guards and both former President Issoufou and President Bazoum were unharmed. Local reports indicate the coup plotters were members of an airbase located some kilometres away from the Presidential Palace. The coup comes after several weeks of tensions generated by opposition leader’s Mahamdou Ousmane rejection of the electoral results. The Constitutional Court has verified the results and declared Bazoum the winner of the elections. The coup occurred 2 days before the inauguration of President Bazoum. Day-to-day activities were not affected by the attempted coup despite increase security presence across the capital. President Bazoum was inaugurated on 2nd April without any major incident. The new government faces the huge task of addressing the jihadist crisis and restoring stability. President Bazoum is likely to favour more military operation towards terrorism as he has ruled out any form of dialogue with jihadist leaders.

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