The Islamic State on Saturday claimed responsibility for the ambush of a military convoy in Burkina Faso November 11 that killed 14 soldiers.
A rival group affiliated with al-Qaeda called the Jihadist Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) had previously claimed responsibility for the attack.
The government of Burkina Faso said 14 were killed and eight wounded, three of them seriously, when a military detachment was attacked in the Sahel province of Qudalan, close to the borders with Mali and Niger, last Wednesday. Many of Burkina Faso’s jihadis are invaders from Mali.
Government security sources said the army was able to “neutralize at least nine suspected terrorists” after the ambush.
Burkina Faso is scheduled to hold elections on November 22. Several candidates have suspended campaign activities due to a wave of terrorist violence, and counterattacks from vigilante militia, while many rural Burkinabe citizens may be nervous about voting.
The parliament in August mandated the election will continue on schedule even if security concerns prevent many citizens from voting, a move denounced by critics as likely to depress turnout, ruin public trust in the election, disenfranchise voters, and empower jihadi groups linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
When neighboring Mali held an election last year, the results were disputed, mass protests broke out, a coup was staged, and the elected president fled the country. An 18-month interim government was declared in September.
The Islamic State’s “news agency” Amaq claimed responsibility for the Burkina Faso attack on social media. ISIS said 20 soldiers were killed in the ambush, not the 14 counted by the government.
Rival terrorist group GSIM claimed the same attack in its own social media posts. ISIS and its al-Qaeda-linked rival have made conflicting claims of responsibility several times in the past.
Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the “emir” or chief of ISIS operations in the Greater Sahara region, criticized al-Qaeda as a gang of fumbling, disorganized jihadi wannabees in an interview published in last week’s issue of the Islamic State’s Al-Naba newsletter.
Sahrawi, evidently eager to prove he is still in charge of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) contrary to rumors that his deputy was taking over, argued the local insurgent groups that came together under al-Qaeda’s banner are poorly coordinated and prone to infighting, so they cannot pull off operations like the ones ISIS takes credit for. He said several groups have splintered away from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and much of its fighting strength was diverted to Libya.
Sahrawi said what little unity AQIM has been able to achieve was largely a fearful response to the rising power of ISIS in the Greater Sahara, and claimed ISIS has been able to poach important members from al-Qaeda and its allied groups, provoking panicked AQIM leaders into declaring war against the Islamic State. He was particularly critical of AQIM’s efforts to forge alliances with groups outside the jihadi sphere, such as the Tuareg tribesmen.