Around 20 people in east-central Burkina Faso have been killed in attacks by suspected jihadists, sources said on Friday.
Armed men on Monday raided the village of Kaongo in the border province of Koulpelogo, killing at least 11 people including two women and children, and two days later the neighboring village of Bilguimdoure was targeted, “leaving around 10 dead,” a local official said.
The attackers torched homes and stores in the two villages and made off with cattle, the official said.
Sources in the security forces confirmed the attacks and said that operations were underway to secure the area.
People living in the district said there was an exodus among local inhabitants, who were terrified of further attacks.
Koulpelogo, located on Burkina’s border with Togo and Ghana, has been repeatedly attacked by Islamist militants this year, despite a crackdown by the army and a volunteer civilian militia, the VDP.
Last month, at least 24 people, including 20 VDP members, were killed in two raids in the troubled region.
The impoverished landlocked Sahel state is struggling with a jihadist insurgency that swept in from neighboring Mali in 2015.
More than 10,000 civilians, troops, and police have died, according to NGO estimates, while at least two million people have fled their homes and more than a third of the country lies outside the government’s control.
Anger within the military at the mounting toll triggered two coups last year.
On Friday, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said that Australian doctor Kenneth Elliott, 88, had been freed more than seven years after he and his wife were snatched in Burkina by Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists.
The couple had run the sole medical clinic in Djibo, a town near the border with Mali, since 1972. Elliott’s spouse Jocelyn was released three weeks after the abduction.
Her husband returned to Australia on Thursday night, according to the government.
Wong’s statement said that the government and Elliott’s family had “worked tirelessly” for his freedom. It gave no details about the circumstances of his release.