Gunmen have killed 24 people and wounded 18 in an attack on a Protestant church in a village in northern Burkina Faso where jihadists frequently target Christians.
A group of ‘armed terrorists’ raided the village of Pansi, in Yagha province ‘and attacked the peaceful local population after having identified them and separated them from non-residents’, the governor, Colonel Salfo Kabore, said in a statement.
The assault occurred on Sunday during a weekly service at a Protestant church, security officials said.
‘The provisional toll is 24 killed, including the pastor… 18 wounded and individuals who were kidnapped,’ Kabore said.
A resident of the nearby town of Sebba said Pansi villagers had fled there for safety.
Both Christians and Muslims were killed before the church was set on fire, said a government security official in Dori who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media.
A 2008 file photo shows a congregation worshipping at a church in the district of Toleha in Burkina Faso
A Burkina Faso soldier patrols at a district that welcomes Internally Displaced People (IDP) from northern Burkina Faso, in Dori on February 3, 2020
Pictured: A locator map showing the village of Pansi in eastern Burkina Faso, where militants killed worshippers at a Protestant church
The mayor of Boundore commune, Sihanri Osangola Brigadie, said roughly 20 attackers separated men from women close to a Protestant church. At least 18 other people were injured.
‘It hurt me when I saw the people,’ Brigadie said after visiting some of the victims in the hospital in Dori town, 110 miles from the attack. The gunmen looted oil and rice from shops and forced the three youth they kidnapped to help transport it on their motorbikes, he said.
Christians and churches in northern provinces have become frequent targets by armed Islamists.
On 10 February, suspected jihadists in Sebba seized seven people at the home of a pastor. Five bodies were found three days later, including the pastor, according to the local governor.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso is on the front line of a jihadist insurgency advancing in the Sahel.
Since 2015, around 750 people have been killed in Burkina and around 600,000 people have fled their homes.
A picture taken on October 30, 2018 shows Burkinabe gendarmes sitting on their vehicle in the city of Ouhigouya in the north of the country
Also in the north of the country, five soldiers were killed on Sunday when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device near Banh, in Loroum province, security sources said.
‘Three of the five were killed instantly and the two others died later from serious injuries,’ one of the sources said.
Thirty people in Burkina Faso have died in four attacks by highway bombs since the start of the year, according to a reported toll.
They include seven schoolchildren in the northwest of the country who were among 14 killed aboard a bus that had taken a road that had been banned because of the security risk.
According to UN figures, jihadist attacks in Burkina and neighbouring Mali and Niger left nearly 4,000 people dead last year.
A man drives past a church in the city of Ouahigouya, northern Bukina Faso, on October 30, 2018
Their armed forces are weak, struggling with poor equipment and lack of training and funding.
In Niger, a policeman was killed on Sunday at a police post near Ayorou, in the western region of Tillaberi, in the second attack in the area in a week, a security official said.
Analysts are concerned that attacks against civilians, including against Christians, are increasing ‘at an alarming rate,’ said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director for Human Rights Watch. ‘Perpetrators use victims’ links to government or their faith to justify the killings, while others appear to be reprisal killings for killings by the government security forces,’ she said.
More than 1,300 civilians were killed in targeted attacks last year in Burkina Faso, more than seven times the previous year, according to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which collects and analyzes conflict information.