Fourteen dead in Burkina Faso clashes

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Gunmen killed four Burkina Faso soldiers and injured five others near the Malian border a day after 10 civilians died in a separate nearby attack, the army and security officials said.

Jihadist groups, already a security headache for neighbouring Mali and Niger, have rapidly spread into Burkina Faso’s remote north, killing soldiers and civilians in a spate of attacks.

The soldiers killed in Monday’s assault were from an anti-terrorism unit operating in the Nassoumbou area, the army said in a statement. The same unit lost 12 soldiers in December 2016 in an attack claimed by Ansarul Islam, an al Qaeda-linked insurgent group.

On Sunday unidentified gunmen targeted a road leading to a market in Sikire, in the same region, killing 10 civilians, security sources told Reuters.

A local cow herder who witnessed the attack and declined to be named for fear of reprisals said several gunmen arrived on motorbikes and started shooting apparently at random.

France’s foreign ministry condemned the attack on Sikire.

“France is concerned about the increase in attacks against security forces and civilian populations of the country,” it said in a statement.

Once seen as one of West Africa’s safest countries, Burkina Faso was forced to impose a six-month state of emergency in its northern provinces from December 31. Security worsened in recent months, primarily due to Islamist militant attacks near the landlocked country’s porous border with Mali.

The capital, Ouagadougou, was hit by attacks targeting Westerners in the past three years. Thousands of people fled as a result of the attacks and reprisals by Burkina Faso forces, Human Rights Watch reported.

Violence in West Africa’s semi-arid Sahel region continues to worsen five years after France intervened in Mali, a former French colony, to drive back Islamist militants who seized the country’s desert north.