The president of the West African nation of Burkina Faso has confirmed that 14 people were killed in an attack on a Protestant church during Sunday services in the country’s east.
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said on Twitter that he condemned “the barbaric attack” in the town of Hantoukoura. He also confirmed that several people were also wounded.
Kabore offered his “deepest condolences to the bereaved families” and wished “a speedy recovery to the wounded.”
Meanwhile the identity of the gunmen was not immediately clear and further details on the attack had yet to emerge. Burkinabe armed forces were caring for the wounded and searching the area, the government said in a statement.
Until 2015, the poor West African country was largely spared the violence that hit Mali and then Niger, its neighbors to the north.
But attackers – some linked to al-Qaeda, others to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group – began infiltrating the north, before moving east and towards the southern and western borders.
The unrest has ignited ethnic and religious tensions, rendering large parts of the country ungovernable.
The attack took place in the village of Hantoukoura near the border with Niger in the East Region, an area known for banditry that has come under attack over the past year from groups with suspected links to al-Qaeda and ISIL.
The timing of the latest incident, during hours of worship, mirrored other attacks on Christians this year – a new phenomenon in a West African country that has long prided itself on its religious tolerance.
Hundreds have been killed over the past year and nearly a million forced from their homes.
Meanwhile on November 6, Aljazeera.com reported that France had announced the deployed of troops to Burkina Faso. According to the report, the French minister of armed forces, had announced her country will be deploying ground troops to the “three borders” area of Burkina Faso.
During a visit to the country’s capital, Ouagadougou, she said “the launch of operation ‘Bourgou 4’ will be led by Barkhane [France’s military operation in the Sahel region of Africa], but with the eminent contribution of two Burkinabe companies.”
Sources in Burkina Faso suggest the operation has already started and is being carried out at the request of the Burkinabe authorities.
The move represents an expansion of France’s operation in the Sahel which, until now, has deployed the majority of its 4,500 troops to other countries in the region including Mali, Niger and Chad over five years.