A priest missing since Tuesday in Burkina Faso’s jihadist-plagued southwest has been found dead, security and local sources said Thursday.
“The priest’s lifeless body was found in the Toumousseni Forest” in the Cascades region bordering Ivory Coast and Mali, a security source said.
A local politician confirmed that the priest, Abbot Rodrigue Sanon from the Notre Dame de Soubaganyedougou parish, had been found dead.
While the priest’s disappearance and death remain unexplained, Burkina Faso’s southeast harbors jihadists and bandits — much like parts of neighboring states in the Sahel region.
Sanon had left his parish on Tuesday heading for the regional capital Banfora, but “never arrived,” bishop Lucas Kalfa Sanou said Wednesday in a statement.
His car was found empty on the main road and security forces launched a search operation.
“Everything looks like a kidnapping by armed terrorist groups,” a security source in the capital Ouagadougou told AFP, using Sahel governments’ preferred terminology for jihadists.
“They must have executed their hostage to slip by the military cordon,” the source added.
Since 2015, jihadist groups — some affiliated to al-Qaeda and others to the Islamic State militant group — have launched increasing numbers of attacks in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world.
Over that period, 1,100 people have been killed and more than one million have fled.
Last August, the grand imam of the northern town of Djibo was found dead three days after gunmen stopped the car he was traveling in and kidnapped him.
In March 2019, a priest in Djibo was kidnapped, and in February 2018, a Catholic missionary, Cesar Fernandez, was murdered in the center of the country.