- The roughly twenty attackers are said to have separated men from women close to the church, at least ten other people were injured.
- Last week, in Yagha province, a retired pastor was killed and another pastor abducted by gunmen.
- More than 1,300 civilians were killed in targeted attacks last year in the country, more than seven times the previous year.
At least 24 people have been killed after unidentified gunmen attacked a church in northern Burkina Faso, Al Jazeera reported and officials have confirmed. A local pastor was among the dead. This is the latest assault against places of worship in the West African nation as religious attacks continue. The attack took place on Sunday during a weekly service at a Protestant church in the village of Pansi, in Yagha, a volatile province near the border with Niger.
Officials say that the gunmen stormed the village when the church was full. The roughly twenty attackers are said to have separated men from women close to the church, at least ten other people were injured. A group of “armed terrorists attacked the peaceful population after having identified them and separated them from non-residents,” Colonel Salfo Kabore, the regional governor said. “The provisional toll is 24 killed, including a pastor . . . 18 wounded and individuals who were kidnapped,” he added.
The mayor of Boundore commune, Sihanri Osangola Brigadie who visited the victims in the hospital in Dori town about 110 miles from the attack said he was devastated on seeing the survivors. “It hurt me when I swathe people,” Brigadie said. He added that the attackers looted oil and rice from shops and they forced three youths they had kidnapped to transport the goods on their motorbikes.
A government security official who sought anonymity said that both Christians and Muslims were killed before the church was set ablaze. Christians and churches have become targets for attacks in the northern part of the country. Last week, in Yagha province, a retired pastor was killed and another pastor abducted by gunmen. The local governor said that on February 10, suspected jihadists seized seven people at the home of a pastor, five bodies were found three days later including that of the pastor.
“Perpetrator use victims’ links to government or their faith to justify the killings, while others appear to be reprisal killings for killings by the government security forces,” Corinne Dufka, West Africa director for the Human Rights Watch, said. Analysts are concerned that attacks against civilians including Christians have drastically increased.
Last month, at least 60 people were killed in two other attacks in the north. With the army unable to defend the population, the authorities have started recruiting volunteers who after just two weeks are given guns to defend vulnerable villages near the border with Mali and Niger.
More than 1,300 civilians were killed in targeted attacks last year in the country more than seven times the previous year according to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project. Burkina Faso is on the front line of a jihadist insurgency advancing in the Sahel. Since 2015, at least 750 people have been killed and about 600,000 people have been displaced. According to UN figures about 4,000 people were killed in jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso and neighboring Mali and Niger last year.