Overview: Burkina Faso experienced a slow but steady increase in terrorist activity in 2017, including numerous cross-border attacks in its northernmost region bordering Mali. The Government of Burkina Faso has made numerous arrests of terrorist suspects, augmented the size of its special terrorism detachment Groupement des Forces Anti-Terroristes (GFAT) in the country's north, and joined the newly-created G-5 Sahel Joint Force to fight terrorism and criminal trafficking groups with regional neighbors Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.

In 2017, the Sahara Branch of al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Murabitoun, Ansar al-Dine, and the Macina Liberation Front came together to form Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM). JNIM and other groups like Ansarul Islam and ISIS in the Greater Sahara are all known to operate in Burkina Faso.

The French military's Operation Barkhane continued its integrated counterterrorism mission for the Sahel region. Cooperating with Malian forces, Barkhane sought to degrade terrorist elements in northern and central Mali, particularly JNIM.

Terrorist organizations successfully recruited marginalized, poor, and historically disadvantaged Fulani inhabitants. Burkinabe security forces have been accused of torture, extrajudicial killings, burning of property, and arbitrary detention in their response to terrorism in the north. The Government of Burkina Faso has opened an investigation into these allegations, which was ongoing at year's end. We refer you to the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and Report on International Religious Freedom for further information.

The United States was in the process of implementing USAFRICOM's US $5.6 million program to build upon a previously Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP)-funded Gendarmerie border security program in the northern region of Burkina Faso. In 2017, the United States pledged US $30 million for the Burkinabe military to equip its security components of the G-5 Sahel Joint Force and another US $30 million for the other G-5 countries for a total of US $60 million.

Additionally, TSCTP funded US $6 million in other security assistance programs to reinforce security at the airbase in Ouagadougou and equip the Gendarme Special Intervention Unit with radios, body armor, and ballistic shields. It will also make improvements to the peacekeeping training center in Loumbila.

2017 Terrorist Incidents: Approximately 50 attacks that took place mainly in Burkina Faso's northernmost region along the border with Mali were believed to be terrorist-related. Attacks have included targeted killings, kidnappings, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and attacks on security outposts, police stations, and barracks. Attacks using IEDs were witnessed for the first time in 2017 and targeted Burkinabe security forces and civilians. The deadliest attack occurred on August 17, when an IED detonated under a military vehicle patrolling the Djibo area, causing three deaths and seriously injuring two. Attacks have also targeted Burkinabe government officials, schools, and markets. On November 17, in the village of Taouremba, six heavily armed individuals on motorcycles conducted a targeted attack on a municipal councilor in the town market that resulted in the death of 10 individuals.

The largest attack in Burkina Faso took place on August 13 in Ouagadougou at the Aziz Istanbul Café, a Turkish-owned restaurant frequented by expatriates. Two armed gunmen wounded 25 and killed approximately 19 people, including 10 Burkinabe and nine foreigners. Two of the foreigners were Kuwaiti – one of whom was imam of the Kuwaiti Great Mosque, Dr. Waleed Al-Ali. Both were in Burkina Faso for a charitable mission.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2017, Burkina Faso began making changes to its legal framework. In January, lawmakers created a Special Judicial Interagency working group based on best practices across the region that will have jurisdiction over terrorism-related legal cases. However, it was not fully operational by the end of 2017.

Approximately 22 judicial investigations linked to attacks committed against civilians and security forces were ongoing at the end of 2017. Some of the cases started on the basis of citizen claims that someone was a terrorist or suspected of belonging to terrorist groups. Many cases stagnated while awaiting information from neighboring countries. Burkina Faso has not yet brought to trial any of the approximately 150 alleged terrorists detained in Burkina Faso's High Security Prison, opened in 2014.

Burkinabe security and law enforcement officials continued to cite border security as a major area of concern. Burkina Faso's Counterterrorism Strategy, Mission de Securitization du Nord, strives to address terrorist activities along its northern border. To accomplish this, Burkina Faso operationalized and deployed a joint Army-Gendarmerie-Police counterterrorism task force known as the Groupement des Forces Anti-Terroristes (GFAT) in January 2013. This force's level has increased from 500 troops in 2016 to 1,600 troops in 2017 in an effort to counter the growing terrorist threat.

Burkina Faso relies on the Terrorist Interdiction Program's Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES), and uses International Organization for Migration-provided screening equipment and software to conduct traveler screening and watchlisting.

The Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program provided workshops on cross-border security, crisis management, criminal justice procedures, and prosecution of terrorists. This included an Advanced Rural Border Patrol course and Border Unit mentorship to assist Burkina Faso in securing its borders. The United States partnered with the UN Office for Drugs and Crime for a program on Burkina Faso's legal framework to counter terrorism.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Burkina Faso is a member of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), a Financial Action Task Force-style body. Burkina Faso's financial intelligence unit (Cellule Nationale de Traitement des Informations Financières – CENTIF) tracks terrorist financing, but had not tried any cases by year's end. In 2017, the Minister of Territory Office of Public Freedoms and Associations took responsibility for terrorism financing from the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2017, CENTIF required non-profit organizations to declare their funding sources. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): The Burkinabe government launched the Sahel Emergency Plan in 2017 to strengthen the role of government, enhance community law enforcement, and generate economic opportunities in its Sahel region. Burkina Faso did not have programs to rehabilitate or reintegrate terrorists into mainstream society.

The U.S. Agency for International Development's CVE programming included a regional messaging project, called Voices for Peace, which counters terrorist narratives through radio programs and social media. It also includes an effort called Partnerships for Peace to strengthen the capacity of the national government, civil society organizations, and regional organizations – G-5 Sahel and the Economic Community of West African States – to counter violent extremism and a research initiative to identify the conditions terrorists exploit for recruitment in local communities.

Regional and International Cooperation: Burkina Faso participates in the G-5 Sahel Joint Force and provides forces to improve security along shared borders to interdict the flow of terrorist groups and criminal trafficking. Burkina Faso maintains two peacekeeping battalions in Mali as part of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.


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