Two soldiers and four civilian volunteers with Burkina Faso’s security forces have been killed in clashes with suspected jihadists, army headquarters said on Thursday.

A soldier and four Volunteers for the Defence of the Fatherland (VDP) were killed on Thursday in the northern town of Dijbo, in Soum province, it said in a statement.

Eight soldiers were wounded and at least seven assailants were killed, it added.

On Wednesday, a reconnaissance unit in northwestern Burkina clashed with “terrorists” in Gomboro, in Sourou province and an officer was killed, the statement also said.

Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries of the world, has been grappling with a jihadist insurgency that swept in from neighboring Mali in 2015.

The campaign, led mainly by groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, has claimed more than 2,000 lives and forced around 1.8 million people to flee their homes.

The VDP — a civilian auxiliary force set up in December 2019 to take over some basic security duties from the army — has suffered some of the worst casualties.

The landlocked Sahel state underwent a military coup in January, when disgruntled colonels ousted elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore.

The country’s new strongman, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, declared security to be his top priority but after a relative lull, a surge in attacks has claimed more than 200 lives.

On Wednesday, security sources said a leading jihadist commander in the north had been killed in an airstrike on May 26.

Tidiane Djibrilou Dicko was on a most-wanted list of 46 jihadists that the armed forces circulated in early May.

France has thousands of troops in the Sahel as part of its anti-jihadist Barkhane force.

The French army on Thursday said Barkhane had deployed a patrol of Mirage 2000 jets to support Burkinabe troops on the ground at the request of Ouagadougou.