Gunmen killed at least 55 people over the weekend in northern Burkina Faso, in the latest attack in the west African country, which is seeing mounting violence blamed on Islamic extremists.
Suspected militants targeted civilians in Seytenga in Séno province, government spokesman Wendkouni Joel Lionel Bilgo said at a news conference. While the government put the official toll at 55, others put the figure far higher, with some saying as many as 100 had died.
Attacks linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group are soaring in Burkina Faso, particularly in the north. Jihadists killed at least 160 people in an attack in Solhan town last July.
In January, mutinous soldiers ousted the democratically elected president promising to secure the nation but violence has only increased. The government is asking people to remain united in the fight against the insurgents.
While no group claimed responsibility for the attack, conflict analysts say it was probably carried out by the Islamic State group.
“In recent weeks the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) have been the most aggressive group, notably in Seno and Oudalan provinces. In addition to attacks against security forces, civilians have also been targeted,” said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Moroccan-based organization focused on economics and policy.
“This is a major blow to security forces and puts them on the backfoot again, indicating they are far from being able to secure the area and protect civilians,” he said.
Nearly 5,000 people have died over the last two years in Burkina Faso because of violence blamed on Islamic extremists. Another 2 million people have fled their homes, deepening the country’s humanitarian crisis.