Assailants attack Ivory Coast security posts near Burkina border

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Security forces on Ivory Coast's northern border with jihadist-torn Burkina Faso twice came under attack overnight, security sources and a local resident said Monday, giving an unconfirmed toll of three dead.

An army post at Kafolo was attacked at around 1:00 am, a security official told AFP, in the second raid on the area in less than 10 months.

The number of casualties and their identity were unclear, the official said, while a local inhabitant said two people were killed.

"The assailants were pushed back and a military operation is under way," army headquarters told AFP, without further details.

Shortly afterwards, a police post was attacked in Tehini, to the east of Kafolo, killing a gendarme, a colleague of his in the town of Ferkessedougou said.

Fourteen soldiers were killed in a night-time attack in Kafolo on June 10 last year.

No group claimed responsibility for that raid, although the assailants are suspected to have been jihadists who crossed over from Burkina Faso, which has been struggling with an Islamist insurgency since 2015.

In 2016, 19 people were killed in a jihadist attack in Grand-Bassam, a vacation resort near Ivory Coast's economic capital Abidjan.

Security experts have long warned that the jihadist campaign in the Sahel, which sprang up in northern Mali in 2012 before advancing into Niger and Burkina Faso, could spread into countries on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea.

Last month, in a rare public intervention, the head of France's foreign intelligence service Bernard Emie said that Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists were working on plans to extend their attacks south of Burkina Faso.

"These countries are themselves now targets," he said. "The terrorists are already financing men who are spreading out in Ivory Coast and Benin."

French and Ivorian security services say several attacks have been thwarted thanks to cooperation between the intelligence services of Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso and France.

President Alassane Ouattara, speaking to AFP while campaigning last October for re-election, said Ivory Coast had stepped up "military protection on the border," with enhanced intelligence and "technological tools."

"We have cleared out the (Kafolo) zone, we are ready to face any possible threat," he said.

France has 900 troops at a military base in Ivory Coast in addition to the deployment of 5,100 personnel under Operation Barkhane, an anti-jihadist mission launched in the Sahel in 2014.

(AFP)