Sahel Security Report - May 2020

Published on 30 May, 2020.


Violence in the Sahel not only continued but escalated in the month of May. Jihadist groups continued attacks on military and civilian targets in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. In their effort to mitigate the crisis, defence forces in the region carried out search operations against jihadist groups operating in border towns across the sub-region—Burkina Faso-Ivory Coast border in the west; the Burkinabe-Nigerien border in the east and the Malian border in the north. Intra jihadist fighting also escalated between ISGS and JNIM after ISGS in an unprecedented step formally acknowledged and confirmed reports of ongoing clashes with its Al Qaeda-affiliated counterpart, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin in Burkina Faso and Mali. Malian opposition leader remains in the custody of assailants as negotiations for his release continues albeit slowly. Over 100 incidents and 270 fatalities were recorded in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger in the last month.


Amid the continued violence in the north and western regions, tensions between jihadist group s intensified while defence forces faced further allegations of the extrajudicial killings following the death of 12 civilians in a cell in Fada N’Gourma. Counter-terror operations have been intensified over the last 4 weeks as security forces have successfully neutralized militants in the cities north and eastern regions—Yagha, Kossi and Ouadan Provinces. Anti-jihadist operations were also intensified in along the western borders of the country after joint force—Ivoirian and Burkinabe forces killed 8 militants, arrested 34 others and seized a cache of weapons and ammunition. Series of airstrikes by Barkane forces were also launched in the Sahel region as French forces targeted ISGS forces in Tin-Akoff department. Despite intensified military operations, risk of jihadist attacks towards both civilians is high as 20 people were killed following a gun raid in a market in the Pama Commune, Kompienga Province on 30th May. 24 hours later 10 people were killed following militant ambush on an aid convoy in Barsalogho Commune, Sanmentenga Province. Earlier this month, 2 agents of a telecom company were attacked in the same province. Several military detachments have also been attacked over the last 4 weeks. More military operations are however expected in the next 3-6 weeks as authorities seek to ensure some safety and security for the upcoming elections scheduled in November. State of emergencies and curfews in the North, East and Sahel regions are expected to be extended.

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Security in Mali remains unstable after both jihadist groups and security forces operations continued in the last 4 weeks. Opposition leader—Soumaila Cisse remains in the custody of militants whilst members of his entourage were released last month allegedly with the help of some Katiba Macina fighters. The highlight of the crisis in Mali currently is the intra-jihadist tensions between IGSS and JNIM fighters. The conflict has hit a new phase after ISGS in an unprecedented move acknowledge the ongoing crisis existing between the two most dominant jihadi groups operating in the area. ISGS has accused the Al-Qaeda affiliated faction JNIM of having a tacit agreement with French and regional African forces, exerting pressure on oil supply lines and ISGS civilian sympathisers to coincide with military operations targeting ISGS forces. Tensions between both groups have been high since the April following violent clashes between both factions in the Mopti region—resulting in the death of over 100 militants. Violence against civilians and military forces have however continued. 27 civilians were killed in an attack by militants in Koro, Bankass and Tille—Mopti region on May 26th. An unidentified government official driving back from Timbuktu was kidnapped by militants in Gourma-Rharous (Tombouctou Region). This incident is politically motivated since the official is reported to have some connection with the recent legislative elections. Security forces also suffered an attack after a convoy hit an IED near Aguelhok in the Kidal region killing a MINUSMA personnel and wounding 4 others. Security operations were also intensified in the region in the last four weeks as 6 jihadists were killed in a FAMA operation in Koro cercle (Mopti Region). 30 militants were also neutralized by FAMA forces near the Burkinabe border. More incidents—intra-jihadist clashes, attacks and security operations are expected in Mali particularly the Mopti, Gao and Kidal regions.

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Jihadist violence continued in Tillaberi and Diffa region as Boko Haram fighters have been active in the region throughout May. On 9th May unknown assailants suspected to be Boko Haram fighters killed 20 civilians after launching several attacks in villages in the Tillaberi region. Security forces suffered another attack a week later after Boko Haram militants fire 2 rocket missiles at military positions in the Diffa region. Security forces have intensified counter-insurgency operations in the Diffa and Tillaberi region despite facing allegations of executing 100 civilians in the Ayorou district. Over 20 Boko Haram fighters were neutralized by security forces—Multinational Joint Taskforce after operations in the Diffa region. Anti-lockdown protests in the capital Niamey have been halted following the easing of C-19 restrictions—lifting of curfew and reopening of religious facilities by the government.

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