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    Extremist attacks mount in Burkina Faso despite junta’s efforts

    OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO (AP) – The mutinous soldiers who ousted Burkina Faso’s democratically elected president early this year vowed they would do a better job at stopping the extremist violence rocking the country.

    Five months later, however, attacks are increasing and patience with the junta appears to be waning.

    Many in Burkina Faso supported the military takeover in January, frustrated with the previous government’s inability to stem extremist violence that has killed thousands and displaced at least two million.

    Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who led the coup and was later installed as interim president, vowed to restore security.

    But violence linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) increased nearly seven per cent during the junta’s first three months of rule compared with the three months prior, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).

    “Beyond the immeasurable suffering, the effects of the violence and conflict – which show no signs of abating – are likely to lead to renewed popular discontent,” said senior researcher at ACLED Heni Nsaibia,.

    A man holds a portrait of Lieutenant Colonel Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba. PHOTO: AP

    Nearly 5,000 people have died in the last two years in Burkina Faso and conflict experts said there will be far-reaching consequences if the violence continues to worsen.

    “The decline in Burkina Faso will absolutely fuel the spread of extremist activity in the Gulf of Guinea states – Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo – where there already is extremist recruitment and violence,” said Director of Global Programmes Michael Shurkin at 14 North Strategies, a consultancy based in Dakar, Senegal.

    Damiba has asked citizens to give him until September to see improvement. He’s promoted younger officers with field experience and created a central coordination unit for military operations. His government also has supported local dialogues with extremists to try to convince the fighters to put down their arms and return to their homes.

    Yet violence is intensifying. Since April at least 30 security forces have been killed and two foreigners kidnapped: an American nun and a Polish citizen. Last week, 11 gendarmes were killed by extremists in Seno province in the Sahel, said the army in a statement.

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