Fourteen people were killed in an attack Sunday on a church in eastern Burkina Faso where places of worship have suffered a string of Islamist assaults this year, the regional government said.
“Unidentified armed men” carried out the attack during a Sunday service at a Protestant church in the town of Hantoukoura near the border with Niger, the December 1 government statement said.
“This attack unfortunately left 14 dead and many wounded,” it said.
Soldiers in the region were hunting down the assailants, who fled on scooters, a security source said earlier.
One of the poorest countries in the world, former French colony Burkina Faso lies in the heart of the sprawling, impoverished Sahel, on the southern rim of the Sahara desert.
The country 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, and to a lesser extent, the west of the country.
Most insurgent attacks are attributed to the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) which has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and to Ansar ul Islam, which emerged near the Mali border in December 2016. Since May, Islamic State has attributed insurgent activities in the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger tri-border area to its West Africa Province affiliate, rather than to what was previously known as Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
The country’s badly equipped, poorly trained and underfunded security forces have been unable to stem the violence, which has intensified throughout 2019.
Burkina Faso’s previous deadliest attack was in January 2016, when jihadists raided the Splendid Hotel and a cafe in the capital Ouagadougou, killing 30 people, around half of them foreign nationals.
In August this year, the army suffered its worst attack with 24 soldiers killed in an assault on a base in Koutougou that was later claimed by ISWAP.
On November 4, an attack on a base in northern Burkina Faso killed at least five gendarmes and five civilians. Two days later dozens of people were killed in an attack on a convoy transporting local employees of Canadian mining company Semafo, third deadly assault apparently targeting the company in 15 months.
With reporting from AFP