At Least 50 Die in Burkina Attacks Blamed on Jihadists

Ten people were killed when an aid convoy was ambushed in Burkina Faso, the government said Sunday, bringing to at least 50 the death toll from a string of attacks blamed on jihadists.

The ambush occurred on Saturday near the northern town of Barsalogho, it said in a statement, adding that an attack on a livestock market in the east of the country earlier in the day had claimed 25 lives, according to a provisional toll.

The humanitarian convoy was returning from the northern town of Foube after delivering food there, the statement said. At least five civilians and five gendarmes were killed and around 20 people were injured.

Saturday’s attacks came a day after a convoy of mainly shopkeepers escorted by a local self-defense unit came under fire in the north of the West African country, killing 15 people. That attack, in Loroum province, was also blamed on jihadists.

The east and north of the former French colony are the hardest hit by attacks by jihadists, who have killed more than 900 people and caused some 860,000 people to flee their homes in the past five years.

A local governor, Colonel Saidou Sanou, said in a statement that the bloodshed underlined the need for the army and locals to work together to “defeat the terrorist hydra.”

Increasingly Frequent Attacks

Burkina Faso, one of the world’s poorest countries, has battled a jihadist insurgency since 2015. The conflict has provoked attacks on ethnic Fulani herders whom other communities accuse of supporting the militants. Burkina Faso’s armed forces are leading counter-terror operations with increasing frequency.

The Sahel country is part of a regional effort to battle an Islamist insurgency along with Mali, Niger, Mauritania, and Chad. But their militaries, under-equipped and poorly trained, are struggling despite help from France, which has 5,000 troops in the region.

Attacks have in fact intensified in Burkina Faso since last year, becoming practically a daily occurrence.

A security source said the country had become a haven for jihadists as a result of former President Blaise Compaore‘s role as a mediator, notably to obtain the release of Western hostages. Compaore was overthrown in 2014.

Numerous foreigners have been kidnapped in Burkina Faso, with six believed held in a Mali camp near the Burkina border. The wife of one of them, elderly Australian doctor Kenneth Elliot, released a video on Friday appealing for him to be freed.

Unrest in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger killed around 4,000 people last year, according to UN figures.

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