Attempted bombing in north Ghana fuels jihadist fears

#Attempted #bombing #north #Ghana #fuels #jihadist #fears

Criminals in northern Ghana tried to blow up a bridge using explosives for the first time in a region where the government fears growing violent spillover from a jihadist war across the border in Burkina Faso, a top official said.

Ghana along with Gulf of Guinea neighbours Benin, Ivory Coast and Togo are wary of instability just over their northern frontiers, where jihadist groups have been expanding.

Benin, Ivory Coast and Togo have already suffered attacks and incursions across their borders, but Ghana has so far escaped a direct attack linked to Islamist militants in Burkina Faso.

Ghana’s defence minister Dominic Nitiwul told parliament this week that criminal elements tried blowing up a bridge on Monday with improvised explosive devices in the Bawku area near the border.

Bawku is caught up in a decades-long dispute between two rival communities that some experts worry could add to instability and allow jihadists opportunities to infiltrate Ghana. 

“The threat of terrorism hanging around Ghana through the corridors of Bawku is real,” Nitiwul told lawmakers on Wednesday.

“So, the security agencies are working within Bawku and its precincts with the mindset that if we do not stop what is happening in Bawku now, we risk the situation where Ghana can be thrown under terrorist attacks.” 

He added: “Don’t let’s joke with Bawku. And that is how terrorists operate.”

“What is happening today is not about chieftaincy. It is criminality. Those operating are criminals,” the minister said.

He did not identify the suspected criminal elements.

Tensions often flare between the ethnic Kusasi and Mamprusi over the right to choose a new chieftain in Bawku. A heavy police and army presence is already in the region to keep the peace.

Over 10 people have died in clashes in Bawku over the past five days, according to local government officials.

Ghana’s northern frontier with Burkina Faso is also an area with well-established smuggling routes, porous borders and illegal gold mining — a combination local officials and experts worry could benefit jihadists.

The minister said troop presence in Bawku had increased from 50 soldiers to 400 and another 500-strong military task force is being dispatched to the region.

Ghana is also pushing the so-called Accra Initiative to bolster security cooperation and intelligence sharing among Gulf of Guinea neighbours and Sahel countries.

A French troop withdrawal from Mali in the face of mounting hostility and disputes with the ruling junta has refocused Western partners to aid Gulf of Guinea nations battle the war’s southward spillover.

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