Sunday 6 October 2019

Millitants kill at least 23 in attack on gold mine in Soum Province, Burkina Faso.

At least 23 people have died following an attack on a gold mine at Dolmane in Soum Provimce, Burkina Faso, on Friday 4 October 2019. The majority of those killed are reported to have been miners. This attack appears to have been the latest in a series of such assaults carried out by militants claiming links with al Qaeda. Islamic State and other Middle Eastern groups, that have been active in the West African country since 2015, part of a wave of such groups that have sprung up in the western Sahel region. 

The location of Soum Province in northern Burkina Faso. Google Maps.

This is the latest in a series of clashes at and around gold mines in Burkino Faso, which have claimed several lives since September 2017, as well as numerous injuries, and damage to both mining facilities and local villages. In January this year a Canadian geologist was kidnapped and killed, and a number of other foreign workers have been held for ransom. Like may other African countries, Burkino Faso has granted concessions to mining companies in areas where small-scale artisanal mining has traditionally helped to supplement the incomes of subsistence farmers. This provides an important source of revenue for governments, however, little of the money from such projects tends to reach local communities, which often leads to ill feeling and attempts to continue mining clandestinely, which can result in tension or even clashes between mine operators and local populations.

However the cause of the incident on this occasion does not appear to have been directly aimed at the gold industry itself, but rather to have been part of a widening campaign against the central government in Burkina Faso, in which economic assets and infrastructure are attacked as often as military targets. The two main militant groups in the area, Ansarul Islam and the Macina Liberation Front, both seek the re-establishment of the short-lived state of Macina, which occupied parts of what is now northern Burkina Faso, eastern Mali, and western Niger, between 1818 and 1862. Both groups claim both religious authority and to represent populations that are often ignored by central governments in their respective nations, but neither has, to date, sought to hold any territory or establish any form of alternative administration.

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