Burkina Faso church attack leaves priest and 23 others dead


Gunmen killed 24 people, including a priest, in an attack on a church during Sunday mass in north-western Burkina Faso, security sources told Reuters.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, which comes as jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State seek to gain control over once peaceful rural Burkina Faso, fuelling ethnic and religious conflict.

Hundreds died during the past year and over half a million people fled their homes.

The timing of the attack, during a church service in Pansi in Yagha region, mirrors that of other attacks on Christians, including church attacks and assassinations of pastors and priests.

The violence threatens to upend peaceful relations between Burkina Faso’s majority Muslim community and its Christians, who represent a quarter of the population.

Armed assailants “attacked the peaceful residents after identifying them and separating them from non-residents,” government said in a statement.

It said 18 people were also injured in the attack and an unknown number kidnapped.

Many Muslims have also been killed by armed groups. Last October, gunmen stormed a mosque during Friday prayers and killed 15.

Attacks by jihadist groups surged in Burkina Faso and across the broader Sahel region.

They sow ethnic tensions between farming and herding communities in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger to boost recruitment in marginalised communities.

The number of people displaced by the conflict increased tenfold in 2019 to more than 560 000, making it the world’s fastest-growing displacement crisis, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.