Jihadist attack in Burkina Faso kills 80 people

Show caption Burkinabe soldiers patrol a road near the town of Gorgadji, in the Sahel area of Burkina Faso. Photograph: Luc Gnago/Reuters Burkina Faso Jihadist attack in Burkina Faso kills 80 people Death toll from the assault near northern town of Gorgadji leaves 59 civilians dead, along with six militiamen and 15 military police Agence France-Presse in Ouagadougou Fri 20 Aug 2021 00.57 BST Share on Facebook

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Burkina Faso’s president has declared three days of national mourning after suspected jihadists killed 80 people, including 59 civilians, in an attack in the north of the country.

The attack was the latest bloodshed in an area with high levels of Islamist violence.

The assault on Wednesday near the town of Gorgadji also left six pro-government militiamen and 15 military police dead, the government and the military said on Thursday. The initial death toll was put at 47 on Wednesday.

The soldiers and militia had been guarding civilians setting off for Arbinda, another town in northern Burkina. In an ensuing gun battle, security forces killed 58 “terrorists” and put the rest to flight, according to the government. Nineteen people were also wounded, it said. “Rescue and relief operations are continuing,” it said.

The area is in the notorious “three-border” zone where Burkina Faso meets Mali and Niger, a focus of the jihadist violence that plagues the wider Sahel region of west Africa.

It was the third major attack on Burkinabe soldiers in the past two weeks, including one on 4 August near the Niger border, which killed 30 people, including 11 civilians.

The president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, declared three days of national mourning from Thursday for the victims of the latest attack, according to an official decree.

Flags would be flown at half-mast from public buildings and festivities banned during the period, it said.

Burkina Faso, a poor country in the arid sub-Saharan Sahel region, has since 2015 been battling increasingly frequent and deadly attacks by jihadist groups affiliated with Islamic State and al-Qaida.

On 4 and 5 June, gunmen killed at least 132 people, including children, in the north-east village of Solhan, Burkina’s deadliest attack in the history of the insurgency.

Raids and ambushes have been concentrated in the north and east, close to the borders with Mali and Niger, both of which have also faced deadly violence by jihadists. These attacks along with intercommunal violence have left more than 1,400 people dead and forced 1.3 million to flee their homes, according to official estimates.

Militants linked to al-Qaida emerged in northern Mali in 2012, prompting French military intervention. After being scattered, the jihadists regrouped and spread to neighbouring countries.