Security worsens, ethnic clashes in Burkina Faso

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Thirteen civilians were killed in ethnic violence in central Burkina Faso, government said, echoing a rise in inter-communal conflicts in neighbouring Mali linked to Islamist violence.

Burkina has seen a spike in Islamist attacks in recent months as jihadists seek to increase their influence across the Sahel. On December 31, government declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces bordering Mali.

Attacks this week show violence may be fuelling ethnic clashes for the first time in Burkina.

After nightfall on December 31, armed men on motorcycles descended on Yirgou, largely people of Mossi ethnicity, and killed six including the village chief, government spokesman Jean Paul Badoun said.

The following day, Badoun said, Yirgou residents killed seven Fulani herders in apparent retaliation. Residents blamed herders for sheltering the men who attacked them the day before.

The ethnic violence echoes problems in neighbouring Mali where Fulani are accused of hiding Islamists who carried out attacks across the region in recent years. Armed men killed 37 Fulani civilians on Tuesday.

Ten gendarmes were shot dead near the Malian border last week in an attack claimed by Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), an umbrella group for al Qaeda-linked militants in the Sahara.

JNIM claimed responsibility for other attacks, including one in Ouagadougou in March that killed eight security agents and wounded dozens.

Thousands of people fled their homes due to the attacks and reprisals by security forces.