Gunmen killed six people including a priest outside a Catholic church in Burkina Faso, government said, the second attack on Christians in two weeks in a nation increasingly overrun by jihadists.
Congregants were leaving church in Dablo in Central North region when about 20 men encircled them and shot six dead, according to a government statement and local sources.
The attackers then burned the church, looted a pharmacy and other stores and left, Dablo mayor Ousmane Zongo told Reuters. The government statement mentioned only torching a shop and two vehicles.
“These terrorist groups are now attacking religion with the macabre aim of dividing us,” it said.
Burkina Faso has been beset by a rise in attacks in 2019 as groups with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda based in Mali seek to fuel local tensions and extend influence over the porous borders of the Sahel, the arid scrubland south of the Sahara.
Government declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces bordering Mali in December due to deadly Islamist attacks.
Violence has worsened since. Two French soldiers were killed in an operation to rescue four people taken hostage in Burkina last week, France said. Over 100,000 people in Burkina Faso have been displaced by unrest this year, the United Nations said.
Between 55 and 60% of Burkina Faso’s population is Muslim, with up to a quarter Christian. The two groups generally live in peace and frequently intermarry.
In late April unidentified gunmen killed a pastor and five Protestant Church congregants, also in the north, suggesting a religious turn to the violence.