At least 30 civilians along with 17 soldiers and volunteer defence fighters were killed when a convoy in northern Burkina Faso was ambushed by militants, authorities say.
A convoy in northern Burkina Faso was ambushed by suspected militants, killing at least 30 civilians along with 17 soldiers and volunteer defense fighters, the government said.
While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region, militants linked to al Qaeda and the Daesh group are increasingly targeting security forces in the West African country.
The communications ministry said the assault took place 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Gorgadji, in the notorious “three-border” zone where Burkina Faso meets Mali and Niger – a focus of the violence that plagues the wider Sahel region.
The soldiers and militia had been “guarding civilians setting off for Arbinda,” another town in northern Burkina.
In an ensuing gun battle, security forces killed 58 “terrorists” and put the rest to flight, according to the government.
READ MORE: Dozens killed in attacks in Burkina Faso
Wednesday’s was the third attack in the past two weeks against Burkinabe soldiers in which 10 or more people have died, including one on August 4 with a toll of 30 – 11 of them civilians.
The militants have demonstrated their ability to attack civilians even under military escort, said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Moroccan based organisation focused on economics and policy.
“This shows the level of information they have on the locations of security forces and transit routes they are going to use,” Lyammouri said.
Burkina Faso, a poor country in the arid sub-Saharan Sahel region, has been confronted since 2015 with increasingly frequent and deadly attacks.
Along with inter-communal violence, these have left more than 1,400 people dead and forced 1.3 million to flee their homes, according to official estimates.
‘Shocked and concerned’
Locals say they’re scared the uptick in violence will continue spreading.
“The populations of Gorgadji and Arbinda are shocked and concerned about the escalation of terrorist (attacks) against civilians in the region,” Ibrahim Kagone, a local journalist in the nearby town of Dori, told the AP news agency by phone.
The ill-equipped and undertrained army has been struggling to stem the violence and the deteriorating security is prompting unrest across the country.
Widespread protests last month demanding the government take stronger action, prompted President Roch Marc Christian Kabore to fire his ministers of defence and security and appoint himself minister of defence.