Two jihadists jailed 20 years for Burkina school attack

Qantara, August 13, 2021

Two jihadists received 20-year jail sentences on Tuesday for a 2018 attack on a school in northern Burkina Faso following a trial held under tight security.

Aged 38 and 29, the men, who described themselves as a farmer and a herder, were convicted of complicity in terrorism and illegal arms possession, among other charges.

Prosecutors said the defendants were “combattant members” of the Ansaroul Islam jihadist group and attacked the elementary school in Bafina on 2 May 2018, setting it on fire.

Along with four others, they also torched the home of the school’s director and made off with two motor scooters.

The two defendants told the court they had gone to Bafina to attack the village’s self-defence group. They subsequently decided to target the school because the “teaching there was against Sharia law” advocated by Ansaroul Islam, one of them said.

Ansaroul Islam is highly active in the north of the former French colony, claiming responsibility for several attacks against the Burkinabe army, one of which left 16 soldiers dead in December 2016. They have since affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI).

Jihadist groups in the region have claimed more than 1,500 lives and forced 1.3 million people to flee their homes since 2015.

On Sunday, at least 12 soldiers were killed and eight were wounded during an attack by suspected jihadists in the northwest of the country, according to the government of the poor West African country.

The court specialising in terror cases began a series of 10 trials on Monday, to run until Friday. (AFP)