Eleven Burkina Faso soldiers were killed Friday in what local authorities said was the biggest ever jihadist attack on the army, at a base near the restive border with Mali.
“We lost 11 of our men in the attack this morning in Nassoumbou … the biggest jihadist attack ever perpetrated” against the army, the high commissioner of Soum province, Mohamed Dah, told AFP by phone.
Two more men were missing after around 40 jihadists riding pick-up trucks and motorbikes attacked the base some 30 kilometres from the Burkina-Mali border, he added.
“They were heavily armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-launchers. They opened fire at the depots, the tents and set fire to some of the vehicles,” he added.
A security source who asked not to be named said the assailants were wearing turbans and waving black flags.
The army, which said in a statement that the Nassoumbou base had been attacked in the morning, said it had sent reinforcements.
“We have launched a hunt and a more detailed toll with be provided,” a security source said.
Troops at the Nassoumbou base are part of a 600-strong anti-terrorist battalion that was deployed in January 2013 when France sent in troops to counter a jihadist insurgency in northern Mali.
This is the second direct attack against the Burkina army since jihadist assailants surfaced in the country in early 2015, mostly staging attacks in the north near the borders of Mali and Niger.
But in January this year, three jihadists left 30 people dead and 71 injured in an attack in the heart of the capital, Ouagadougou.
The army has, since 2012, had an anti-terrorist battalion deployed along the country’s long border with Mali, an area which is frequently subjected to attacks and kidnappings.