Gunmen killed 24 soldiers in an attack on an army unit in Burkina Faso, the deadliest yet in the West African nation’s fight against Islamist militants, which the president called a “dark stain” on its history.
Seven other soldiers were wounded in the Monday attack and five are still missing, the military and President Roch Marc Kabore said in separate statements.
The army, which earlier put the death toll at 10, said it launched a land and air operation in response to the attack in Koutougou, in northern Burkina Faso’s Soum province.
“August 19th is a dark stain on the life of our national army,” Kabore said in the statement on the presidency website. “It is a heavy toll, which saddens us.”
Large swathes of Burkina’s north are out of control and France’s military Sahel mission began limited operations there earlier this year.
The main opposition party, the Union for Progress and Change (UPC), called for government to step down, accusing it of failing to counter a jihadist threat which killed hundreds of civilians and caused more than 150,000 to flee.
“It’s a team overwhelmed by the turn of events and waiting for how fate will play them and the Burkinabes,” UPC said in a statement.
Deteriorating security prompted the Ouagadougou government to declare a state of emergency in several northern provinces bordering Mali, including Soum in December.