A French military convoy blocked in Burkina Faso by demonstrators

KAYA, Burkina Faso, November 19 (Reuters) – A convoy of French troops in Burkina Faso was stopped on Friday en route to Niger by a human barricade of protesters opposed to France’s involvement in a regional conflict with jihadists.

Anger is mounting in the former French colony over the inability of Burkinabè and international forces to prevent the rise in violence by Islamist militants. State security forces suffered their heaviest loss in years on Sunday when gunmen killed 49 military police and four civilians. Read more

Hundreds of people gathered on the road to block the passage of French armored vehicles in the town of Kaya, according to a Reuters reporter there. One was holding a handwritten sign that read: “Kaya is telling the French army to go home.”

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The French vehicles finally left the road in an area protected by metal fences, where they remained late in the afternoon.

Some of the protesters expressed conspiracy theories common in Burkina Faso and neighboring countries, alleging the French are working with the militants.

“We asked them to open their vehicles so that we have an idea of ​​the contents,” a protester, Bassirou Ouedraogo, told Reuters. “We know what’s inside: suspicious items.”

The convoy encountered similar protests in other towns, but was able to continue to Kaya, witnesses said.

A source at the French embassy in the capital Ouagadougou and a source from the French army confirmed the situation in Kaya but did not give further details.

France intervened in neighboring Mali in 2013 to repel an Islamist insurgency that had gripped the country’s northern desert and has since kept thousands of soldiers in the region.

But activists linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have been able to strengthen their presence and expand into countries like Burkina Faso and Niger.

France is currently in the process of halving its troop strength in the Sahel to around 2,500 to 3,000 troops, as it seeks to transfer more responsibilities to local armies and a European multinational task force.

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Report by Thiam Ndiaga and Anne Mimault; Written by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Aaron Ross, Giles Elgood and Alex Richardson

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