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Ansarul Islam

Ansarul Islam began as a localised insurgency in the northern provinces of Burkina Faso, composed largely of Peul [aka Fulani] fighters. It conducts attacks across northern and eastern Burkina Faso, as well as operating on the other side of the Malian border. The groups first attack against Burkinabe forces was in December 2016, when they killed 12 gendarmes in Nassoumbou. The insurgency has quickly expanded since then. It also operates increasingly along Burkina Fasos border with Niger.

The Islamist insurgency known as Ansarul Islam emerged in the rural north in 2016, targeting schools, local officials, and individuals accused of collaborating with the state. Ansarul Islam, meaning Defenders of Islam, is a home-grown group, founded by the radical and popular preacher Ibrahim Malam Dicko, who is said to have fought with Islamist militants in Mali when they took over the north of country in 2012, prompting France's intervention. Dicko was a Peul commander linked to Ansar al-Din who was arrested by French forces in Mali in 2015 and then later released. Ibrahim Malam died from natural causes in April 2017 and his brother Jafar Dicko is now leading the group.

Widespread frustration with the lack of jobs and infrastructure has made Burkina Faso a fertile recruiting ground for jihadists - and there are numerous smaller groups, not all of which are affiliated to larger ones or pledge allegiance to Islamist ideology. Many are fighting for farmland or against government corruption but "adopt the 'jihadist' label because they happen to be Muslim.

Human rights groups and journalists have reported extrajudicial killings and torture by state security forces, militias known as koglweogos (guardians of the bush), and state-recruited volunteer fighters. Officials pledge to investigate, but few (if any) commanders appear to have faced repercussions. Abuses have reportedly particularly targeted members of the minority ethnic Fulani (alt. Peul) community, who are Muslim and traditionally livestock herders. Several Islamist armed factions, including Ansarul Islam, were founded by Fulani individuals, and Fulanis are often accused of colluding with militants. Perceived collective punishment may, in turn, further erode state legitimacy and prompt communities to turn to armed groups for protection and/or revenge.

Ansarul Islam has received logistical support from both AQIM and ISGS, according to Human Rights Watch. It is believed to be in close contact with members of Katibat Macina as well as Almansour Ag Alkassoum (before his death) and his fighters. Algerian-origin Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al Murabitoun, an offshoot merged with two Mali-based groups to form the Group for Supporting Islam and Muslims (aka JNIM). In 2018, JNIM clamed a complex assault on the national military headquarters and the French embassy in the capital. U.N. sanctions investigators report that JNIM and Ansarul Islam are separate groups that are mutually supportive.

The conflict has primarily affected the north and east, with signs of spillover into the countries of coastal West Africa, to the south. Local security forces and civilians have been the primary victims of insurgent violence. In the north, Ansarul Islam and JNIM have exploited ethnic tensions and perceptions of state neglect, as well as grievances over corruption, patronage politics, social stratification, and land disputes.



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Page last modified: 24-06-2021 17:49:00 ZULU