35 civilians killed in double attack on northern Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso, militant attack, jihadist, violence, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, national emergency, civilians killed
Burkina Faso, bordering Mali and Niger, has seen regular jihadist attacks which have left hundreds dead since the start of 2015, when militant violence began to spread across the Sahel region. Representational image: iStock

A militant attack in northern Burkina Faso on Tuesday (December 25) killed 35 civilians, almost all of them women, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said.

He claimed this was one of the deadliest attacks in nearly five years of jihadist violence in the West African country.

Seven soldiers and 80 jihadists were also killed in the double attack on a military base and Arbinda town in Soum province, the army said.

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Burkina Faso, bordering Mali and Niger, has seen regular jihadist attacks which have left hundreds dead since the start of 2015, when militant violence began to spread across the Sahel region.

“A large group of terrorists simultaneously attacked the military base and the civilian population in Arbinda,” the army chief of staff said in a statement. “This barbaric attack resulted in the deaths of 35 civilian victims, most of them women,” President Kabore added on Twitter, praising the “bravery and commitment” of the defence and security forces.

“I salute the commitment and bravery of our Defense and Security Forces in Arbinda and express them the support of the Nation,” he tweeted.

Communications minister and government spokesman Remis Dandjinou later said that 31 of the civilian victims were women, adding that around twenty soldiers were injured. The president has declared 48 hours of national mourning.

“In memory of the civilian and military victims of this Tuesday’s terrorist attack in Arbinda, I have decided to declare a national mourning of 48 hours over the whole extent of the national territory from Wednesday, December 25 at midnight,” the tweet read.

The morning raid was carried out by dozens of jihadists on motorbikes and lasted several hours before armed forces backed by the air force drove the militants back, the army said. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but jihadist violence in Burkina Faso has been blamed on militants linked to both the Al Qaeda and Islamic State groups.

Leaders of the G5 Sahel nations held summit talks in Niger earlier this month, calling for closer cooperation and international support in the battle against the Islamist threat.

Militant violence has spread across the vast Sahel region, especially in Burkina Faso and Niger, having started when armed Islamists revolted in northern Mali in 2012. The Sahel region of Africa lies to the south of the Sahara Desert and stretches across the breadth of the African continent.

The G5 group is made up of Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, whose impoverished armies have the support of French forces as well as the UN in Mali.

In Burkina Faso, more than 700 people have been killed and around 560,000 internally displaced, according to the United Nations. Attacks have targeted mostly the north and east of the country, though the capital Ouagadougou has been hit three times.

Prior to Tuesday’s attack, Burkina security forces said they had killed around a hundred jihadists in several operations since November. An ambush on a convoy transporting employees of a Canadian mining company in November killed 37 people.

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