Three police officers were killed in a northern region of Burkina Faso where they were hunting for a trio of kidnapped mineworkers, a security official told AFP on Monday, September 24.
“The bodies of three gendarmes were found this morning in Tongomael,” the source said, speaking from the town of Djibo.
“They were part of a team that had been deployed in a search-and-sweep operation” following the kidnapping, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Their bodies were found at daybreak after a two-hour clash with an armed group late Sunday.
A second source – a security official in the capital Ouagadougou – confirmed the account.
On Sunday, three miners – a Burkinabe national, an Indian and a South African – were seized by armed men between Djibo and the Inata gold mine, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) from Tongomael.
The abductors are “probably members of jihadist groups which are active in the region. They headed towards the Malian border and have no doubt already crossed it,” another source in Ouagadougou said.
Last month, five police and a civilian were killed in a bomb and gun attack near another gold mine in Burkina Faso’s east.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso has been battling an escalating wave of attacks over the last three years, beginning with cross-border incursions in the north of the country but now spreading to the east, near the border with Togo, Benin and Niger.
A recent surge in attacks in the east is the result of pressure on jihadist insurgents in neighboring Mali and Niger.
Around 30 people have been killed in recent weeks in several attacks in the east, including Pama and Gayeri, according to the AIB news agency.
Abductions include that of Australian Kenneth Elliott and his wife Jocelyn, humanitarian workers in their eighties, who were kidnapped in Djibo in 2015.
Jocelyn Elliott was released but her husband, who had been running a clinic for the poor for decades, is still being held.
On September 8, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said additional security measures would shortly be unveiled “to eradicate the curse of terrorism.”
With reporting from AFP