Burkina Faso insurgents killed 35 mostly female civilians on Tuesday after attacking a military outpost and Abrinda town in northern Soum Province, and about 87 militants and local security forces were killed in the clash, authorities said, one of the most deadly assaults in nearly five years of jihadist violence in the West African country.
President Roch Marc Kabore declared two days of national mourning in the west African country in response to the attack.
En mémoire des victimes civiles et militaires de l’attaque terroriste de ce mardi à Arbinda, j’ai décidé de décréter un deuil national de 48 heures sur toute l’étendue du territoire national à compter du mercredi 25 décembre à zéro (00) heure.
The morning raid was carried out dozens of jihadists on motorbikes and lasted several hours before drove the militants back, the army said. After several hours on Tuesday morning, armed forces in Soum backed by the air force repelled the militants and seized a large number of weapons and motorbikes, the army said in a statement.
“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.
“As they fled, in a cowardly way the terrorists killed 35 civilians of whom 31 were women,” the government said in separate statement. It said 80 militants and seven members of the security forces were killed in in this double attack, with 20 soldiers being injured, Communications minister and government spokesman Remis Dandjinou said.
Kabore praised the “bravery and commitment” of the defense and security forces in a tweet.
Je salue l’engagement et la bravoure de nos Forces de Défense et de Sécurité à Arbinda et leur exprime le soutien de la Nation.
The incident followed an attack on a mining convoy in November killed nearly 40 people – victims of an Islamist insurgency that has ignited ethnic tensions and rendered large parts of the country ungovernable this year.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attack, but jihadist violence in Burkina Faso has been blamed on militants linked to both Al Qaeda and Islamic State groups.
560,000 internally displaced
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.
Attacks have intensified this year as the under-equipped, poorly trained Burkina Faso army struggles to contain the Islamist militancy.