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Will Fighting Fire with Fire in Burkina Faso Help?

Islamic radicalism that had been bubbling under the surface rose to the fore. Swathes of Burkina Faso, previously home to refugees fleeing sectarian violence and terrorism in Mali, have now become the epicenter of Islamist insurgency in the Sahel. Since 2015, there have been more than 3,000 fatalities and 750,000 people displaced in the country by the independent actions of at least three major jihadi groups: Ansarul Islam, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. Schools have closed and economic activity has all but ended in the north and center of Burkina Faso. To fight back, the Burkinabe Parliament passed a law in January allowing the military to work with vigilante groups. While the Sahel’s challenge with Islamic militancy might be relatively new, Burkina Faso’s strategy has roots in Sankara’s four-year stint in power — and experts worry it risks exacerbating the region’s security problems instead of fixing them.