Burkina's junta announces military zones, forbids entry

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The president of Burkina Faso's transitional government, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, has decided to create two "zones of military interest" where "all human presence is forbidden" in the north of the country in order to combat deadly jihadist violence.

On Monday, the president convened the High Council of National Defence (CSDN) "around the security situation still worrying" in the country, "despite the efforts made by the defence and security forces in the fight against terrorism," said Monday evening by the commander of operations of the national theatre (COTN), Lieutenant Colonel Yves Didier Bamouni.

"The CSDN has decided to create two zones of military interest, notably in the eastern and Sahel (northern) regions," he said, adding that the decision was taken "for greater efficiency in the fight against the terrorist hydra.

The areas concerned are part of the Soum province (north), bordering Mali, and the protected reserves between Pama and the W park in the east of the country are reputed to be havens for jihadists.

In these areas, any activity or human presence will be prohibited at the risk of exposing oneself "to the military operations that will be conducted there shortly", said Mr Bamouni.

These announcements come ten days after the massacre of Seytenga (north) where 86 civilians were killed by jihadists, one of the worst killings in the country's history.

The CSDN also decided to create a patriotic defence and surveillance brigade (BVDP) which will bring together all the volunteers for the defence of the fatherland (VDP), civilian auxiliaries already engaged in the anti-jihadist struggle in the various communes of the country.

Lieutenant-Colonel Bamouni also warned that any member of the armed forces who abandons his position or his equipment "will be subject to disciplinary and criminal proceedings".

Burkina Faso has been caught up in a spiral of violence since 2015, attributed to armed jihadist movements affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, which has left thousands dead and 1.9 million displaced.

At the end of January, Lieutenant-Colonel Damiba overthrew Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who was accused of having been unable to curb the jihadist violence, and made the restoration of security his "priority".

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