Within the last five weeks, three churches have been attacked by terrorists in Burkina Faso. On Sunday, a group of about 20 terrorists arrived on motorcycles and encircled St Isidore Catholic Church in Dablo. Once again, the Christian community was targeted by terrorists. The terrorists had come to kill Father Simeon Yampa, who was in charge of “Interreligious Dialogue” for the Diocese. When Father Yampe attempted to flee he was gunned down. The terrorist placed all the men on the ground and then ordered all the females and children to leave. The terrorists then selected five men and executed them before burning the church down. The terrorists burned a number of other buildings including a health clinic before fleeing back across the border to Mali.
On April 28, 2019, a dozen gunmen on motorcycles attacked the Assemblies of God Protestant Church in Sirgadji. The gunmen demanded the Pastor and others convert to Islam. When they didn’t convert, the terrorists killed Pastor Pierre Ovedraogo his son, his son-in-law and three others. The Pastor has served his church community for almost 40 years. The terrorist then burned the pulpit before fleeing towards Mali.
On April 26, 2019, terrorists killed six individuals including 5 teachers in the town of Maytagou. A dozen armed terrorists on motorcycles shot four of the teachers in the school yard. A fifth teacher died of wounds later. A sixth teacher was spared to tell what had happened. These actions are designed to spread terror and fear much like how the Taliban in Afghanistan are against education.
On April 5, 2019, terrorists entered the Catholic Church in Dori during the Stations of the Cross and separated the men from the women and children. The terrorists killed four individuals and ransacked the church before fleeing.
On March 17, 2019, Father Joel Yougbare, a Parish priest in Djibo was returning to his residence after Sunday mass when he was kidnapped. There have been no demands or claims of responsibility for the kidnapping.
On May 1, 2019, two French music teachers were kidnapped while they were on safari in the Pendjari National Park in northern Benin. Their guide was shot and killed during the kidnapping. The terrorists began moving the two French citizens north through Burkina Faso towards Mali. This kidnapping highlights the significance of following government “Travel Warnings.” The remote area where the two French citizens were kidnapped was a “Red Zone” in France’s Travel Warning due to the significant danger of being there.
Last week French Commandos executed a hostage rescue mission and liberated the two French music teachers before terrorists could move them across the border into Mali. French forces freed a total of four hostages held by the terrorists. An American and South Korean female were also rescued as well as the two French citizens. The American and South Korean citizens had already been held for 28 days by their captives. Two French Special Forces members, Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello were killed during the hostage rescue mission. On Tuesday, the French government will honor these two heroes. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and comrades.
Travel Advisories and Warnings
So often individuals pay little attention to “Travel Advisories and Warnings.” Common sense is often uncommon in high threat areas by individuals who think these warnings don’t apply to them. Individuals end up creating work for intelligence, law enforcement and military personnel when they travel to these high threat areas. Having spoken to numerous organizations, groups and individuals, I am often amazed at how naïve and how little thought goes into international travel to high threat places with some people. Remember your poor planning and travel to high threat areas can get someone else killed. Over the last few years numerous governments have issued travel advisories and warnings dealing with Burkina Faso.
The French government’s Travel Advisory from February 2019 stated: “Terrorism has become an increasingly severe security threat in Burkina Faso since 2015. Educational institutions, local government officials, and security forces are specifically targeted. Initially concentrated in the Sahel region, attacks have spread to other regions, including eastern Burkina Faso (Est region) which is also known for high crime rates. Attacks are usually attributed to Ansarul Islam and other groups affiliated with Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). On January 1, 2019, the government declared a state of emergency for the country’s border regions, to be in effect for six months.”
On April 9, 2019, the U.S. State Department issued a Travel Advisory that suggested that travelers “reconsider travel to Burkina Faso due to terrorism and kidnapping.” Terrorists will continue to conduct attacks and kidnappings in Burkina Faso.
The British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all travel to: “all areas of the country north of the town of Boulsa, within 40km of the western border with Mali, Sahel and Est regions (including the W and Arly National Parks and their contiguous reserves and hunting areas), and Koulpélogo province in Centre-Est region. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of Burkina Faso, including the capital Ouagadougou.”
Robert Pelton has a great line in his book “The World’s Most Dangerous Places.” Pelton, who has traveled to many high threat areas reminds us all to “remember, the most dangerous thing in the world is still ignorance.”
Terrorists in Burkina Faso over the last three years have targeted Christians, churches, police, military, government facilities, tourists, hotels, restaurants, and soft targets. They have kidnapped individuals and moved them north to Mali to make rescue harder. Dr. Ken Elliott who ran a medical clinic for 40 years in Djibo was kidnapped in 2016 and remains a hostage. No one is immune to the terrorist threat in Burkina Faso. Terrorists don’t care if you are a doctor or a minister with 40 years of experience in the country. This is more than a regional problem with Al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates causing chaos and terror.
Terrorism Research Center- “A Virginia Company With a Global Purpose” – http://www.mirrorimagetraining.com