OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Burkina Faso plans to withdraw its troops deployed in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur and to bring them home against a backdrop of growing security threats in the Sahel-Saharan region, the Burkinabe army’s chief of staff said on Thursday.
The West African country was rocked in January by an attack on a hotel and restaurant in its capital, Ouagadougou, claimed by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, that killed 30 people.
The group has been targeting since November civilians at locations frequented by Westerners. It carried out attacks in Mali’s capital Bamako and in a beach resort town in Ivory Coast, leaving dozens of people dead.
“When Burkina Faso decided eight years ago to deploy its first battalion in Darfur, we were in an environment without threats at our borders,” General Pingrenoma Zagre told reporters in Ouagadougou. “We had a security situation in the Sahel-Saharan region that was overall satisfactory.”
But the current circumstances and the logistical costs “led us to a reassessment of the means deployed to support peace keeping theatres and consider the prospect of a withdrawal of one of our three battalions,” he added.
Burkina Faso, which is the eleventh-largest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping missions, has one battalion of 850 soldiers in Darfur and two battalions in Mali. A military source said the battalion to be withdrawn would be the one in Darfur.
The withdrawal from Darfur has yet to be approved by the political authorities, Zagre said.
Reporting by Mathieu Bonkoungou; Writing by Marine Pennetier; Editing by Matthew Lewis