Forty-six people were killed in central-northern Burkina Faso this week after a suspected jihadist attack triggered ethnic clashes, the government said on Friday, January 4.
Authorities initially said 13 people died in violence in Yirgou village in Barsalogo district on Tuesday and Wednesday, but a government spokesperson said the toll had increased to 46.
“It started with a terrorist attack in Yirgou that killed seven people including the village chief,” said spokesperson Remis Fulgance Dandjinou.
“People pursuing the terrorists carried out a number of acts which led … to 46 victims being identified today, including the seven killed by terrorists.”
Residents said after the militant attack, villagers, who are from the Mossi ethnic group, attacked a nearby camp of nomadic Fulani herders, accusing them of being accomplices to the militants.
An eyewitness who spoke to VOA said he counted at least 48 bodies, and that men and boys were targeted in the reprisals. He said that when he arrived at the scene, the Koglweogo, a Mossi self-defense group were burning Fulani houses.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso has been battling an escalating wave of attacks over the last three years, beginning in the North region near the border with Mali.
Attacks have spread to the East region, near the border with Togo, Benin and Niger.
Most attacks are attributed to the jihadist group Ansar ul Islam, which emerged near the Mali border in December 2016, and to the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM), which has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Those groups are believed to be responsible for more than 255 deaths since 2015.
The capital Ouagadougou has been hit three times and almost 60 people have died there.
On Monday, Burkina Faso declared a state of emergency in provinces within seven of the country’s 13 administrative regions after 10 gendarmes were killed near the border with Mali on December 27.
President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré said in September that additional security measures would be unveiled to “resume the initiative” throughout Burkina Faso “to eradicate the curse of terrorism.” Security forces have detained hundreds of people in connection with attacks.
7 arrested after 37 Fulani killed in Mali
Violence against Fulani people is also a growing problem in neighboring Mali, sparked by accusations of Fulani grazing cattle on farming land and disputes over access to land and water, and fueled by accusations that the Fulanis are colluding with jihadists.
Seven people were arrested in central Mali on Wednesday, a day after at least 37 Fulani herders were killed when armed men, believed to be Dogon hunters, attacked Koulogon village in the Mopti region.
“Mali army forces were rushed to the scene,” the civil protection ministry said in a statement.
The same Mali army mission also went into Bobosso village, near the Burkina Faso border, following arson attacks, killing one suspect and detaining 24 others, the ministry said.
The United Nations recorded more than 500 civilian deaths in the area in 2018.
In December, a U.N. investigation blamed traditional Dogon hunters for massacres of the Fulani community in central Mali that killed at least 24 people in June.
With reporting from AFP