Gunmen have killed nearly 100 civilians in an attack on a village in northern Burkina Faso, in the latest horrific incident in years of ongoing violence that has gripped the landlocked West African country, killing thousands and displacing more than a million people.
The government described the gunmen as terrorists and said they attacked the Al-Salhan area near the border with Niger late on Friday night, burning homes and the local market.
“The defense and security forces are searching for and neutralizing the perpetrators of this heinous act,” President Rosh Kabore said. “We must remain united and united against these forces of evil.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but local groups affiliated with ISIS and al-Qaeda have increased attacks in the area since the beginning of the year.
In the past year, violence in Burkina Faso has decreased significantly due to an unofficial ceasefire ahead of elections in November. But analysts said the truce has since faltered.
The attack comes a month after at least 30 people were killed by gunmen in the nearby district of Colidel. The border region, where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, has become a hub of extremist activity, and the focus of counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel region led by France’s 5,000-strong Operation Barkhane.
France intervened in the region in 2013 to crush the jihadist rebellion that had seized northern Mali. Despite a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission and thousands of French and local soldiers, violence has since spilled into central Mali, spilling over into Niger and Burkina Faso, which have experienced rapid collapse, with large swathes of government control slipping out.
On top of the violence, the region is going through a period of acute political instability, which could affect the fight against jihadists. France this week suspended its joint operations with the Malian army afterwards second coup الانقلاب In less than a year.
In April, another major ally in the fighting, Chad – believed to have the most experienced and effective soldiers in the region – suffered a blow when its powerful leader suffered Idriss Deby He was killed by the rebels.
The army quickly installed his son as interim president, but questions remain about the strength of Chad’s ally in the struggle within the upper echelons of the army.