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April 2021 | CTG AFRICOM Team





The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT to all Westerners in Burkina Faso. The current CTG threat matrix indicates there is a HIGH PROBABILITY of Islamic Insurgency groups killing or kidnapping foreign nationals. We base this prediction on the recent killing of an Irishman and two Spaniards, who seem to have been specifically targeted due to their nationality. It is believed that several foreigners are currently being held hostage in Burkina Faso as well as in Niger and Mali over several previous years. This attack is part of a growing trend across West Africa where terrorist and criminal groups target Westerners for ransom or murder.

Three foreigners were killed in Burkina Faso on April 26, 2021, after insurgents ambushed their vehicle.[1] Out of the three, two were Spanish journalists (David Beriain and Roberto Fraile), and one was an Irishman ( Rory Young), the director of a wildlife foundation based in Burkina Faso. Two local soldiers were injured in the attack.[2] The Westerners were part of a 40 person anti-poaching convoy traveling near Fada N'Gourma-Pama, an area in the Eastern region of Burkina Faso. The rangers who were traveling with them for the past week had recently completed an anti-poaching training and were on their first mission.[3] The Associated Press heard an audio message where the Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JMIN), a group linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack.[4] The Sahel region is long known for enduring attacks from Islamist insurgency groups; many linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Figure 1: Fada N'Gourma[5]

Attacks in Burkina Faso’s eastern regions are growing increasingly common. The area has been wracked with Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist attacks and other bandit and criminal activities for years that have resulted in the displacement of over a million citizens.[6] The region has been a hotspot for these activities since 2015when armed Islamists moved in from neighboring Mali.[7] Within this context, the recent attack on the convoy carrying the three westerners is not unusual but does indicate that terrorists and other armed actors are growing increasingly bold and willing to carry out sophisticated attacks against Burkinabe forces. This increase in attacks also stems from both the successes enjoyed by various terrorist and criminal groups, such as ISIS and JNIM, operating in the wider Sahel region (which spurs smaller groups to emulate the tactics employed by these groups) and from the inability of West African governments to counteract these tactics successfully.

Western nationals are a higher risk group due to their nations being more willing to pay larger ransoms for their return than African states.[8] This results in some terrorist, bandit, or criminal actors being willing to take riskier actions, such as attacking armed and protected convoys, with the hopes that there will be a significant payoff should any person of value be taken hostage. Although this attack was targeted at a larger convoy of nationals and foreigners, only foreigners were killed. This strongly indicates that these groups specifically target Westerners due to the potential high-value rewards the groups can recoup through ransoms.

Additionally, the recent attack along the Fada N’Gourma-Pama axis demonstrates an increased sophistication in the attacks carried out by these terrorists, bandit, and criminal actors. Groups like JNIM in Burkina Faso are successfully ambushing large convoys, capturing several prominent members, and retreating without problems, which demonstrates how versatile their tactics have become. These tactics, in turn, increase the likelihood of successful kidnappings, killings, and armed assaults against westerners, given the current inability of Burkinabe security forces to respond effectively.


CTG assesses the current threat to foreign nationals in Burkina Faso as HIGH with regards to the threat of armed assaults, kidnapping, and killing. This is based on ongoing monitoring and analysis of terrorist and criminal entities within Burkina Faso and the operations they carry out. The threat involves known groups such as Al-Qaeda affiliated JNIM as well as unknown criminal and bandit actors. Hence, the threat to foreign nationals in the region remains a major area of concern in light of the recent kidnapping and murder of David Beriain, Roberto Fraile, and Rory Young.

To summarize, we assess three probabilities:

Our analysis indicates there is a HIGH probability of continued attacks and kidnappings of Western nationals in Burkina Faso.

Our analysis indicates the attack which resulted in the deaths of David Beriain, Roberto Fraile, and Rory Young occurred in a region of Burkina Faso with both a HIGH presence and activity level of terrorist, criminal, and bandit actors.

Our analysis indicates that there is a HIGH likelihood that the growth of actors such as JNIM within Burkina Faso will result in increased attacks against significant Burkinabe forces.

If you have any further information, please contact The Counterterrorism Group

By telephone 202-643-2848 or email


[1] Two Spanish Reporters, Irish Activist Killed in Burkina Faso, U.S News, April 2021,

[2] Two Spanish citizens killed in attack in east Burkina Faso, The Seattle Times, April 2021,

[3] Two Spanish reporters, Irish activist killed in Burkina Faso, ABC News, April 2021,,

[4] Ibid.

[5]Fada N Gourma” by Martin Wegmann Baliola licensed under Creative Commons

[6] Irish 'wildlife hero' and two Spanish documentary makers are among four people killed 'in terror attack on their convoy' as they made anti-poaching film in Burkina Faso, Dailymail, April 2021,

[7] Journalists among three Europeans killed by 'terrorists' in Burkina Faso, Modern Ghana, April 2021,

[8] Two Spanish Reporters, Irish Activist Killed in Burkina Faso, U.S News, April 2021, ttps://



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