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Burkina Faso church attack: Priest among six killed

PARIS, Francis –Officials in Burkina Faso say Islamist terrorists have killed six people including a priest as Mass was being celebrated in a church in Dablo, northern Burkina Faso.

According to reliable sources, the attackers, believed to number between 20 and 30 persons, also burned down the church after the brutal attack.

Ousmane Zongo, the town’s mayor, said that there was panic as other buildings were burned down and a health center looted.

Burkina Faso, a West African nation which connects to the Sahel region, has witnessed Jihadist violence since 2016, and this is the third attack on a church in five weeks.  Jihadist activities and rhetoric has made the country a place that is too dangerous to go to school.

The attack on the church began at about 09:00 (GMT and local time), during Mass.

The mayor of Dablo, Mr. Zongo told the news agencies: “Armed individuals burst into the Catholic church… They started firing as the congregation tried to flee.

“There is an atmosphere of panic in the town. People are holed up in their homes, nothing is going on. The shops and stores are closed. It’s practically a ghost town,” he said.

Security sources confirmed that reinforcements were being sent from Barsalogho, some 45km (30 miles) to the south.

A local Burkinabe journalist told multiple news groups that those killed included church elders.  He also said residents were angry that soldiers in a nearby base did not respond promptly.

International terrorist experts say jihadism could be behind the attack as they have done in past attacks in the sub region.

For most of the terror attacks in the sub region in the past decade, Islamist groups have been blamed for a number of them, if not all, in the West African nation and other parts.

Security experts say, fighters associated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group as well as the local Ansarul Islam have been active in the region.

In  late April this year, attackers targeted a Protestant church in the town of Silgadji, killing at least six people.  Earlier in April, four people died when a Catholic church was attacked in a nearby village, the bishop of Dori in northern Burkina Faso told Vatican news agency Fides.

Islamist militants and some clerics are opposed to students receiving non-Islamic education.  Hence, schools and teachers have also been targeted by the groups, who are mainly opposed to Western education.

Local sources and international humanitarian groups say suspect that the four – two French citizens kidnapped in Benin, a South Korean and an American – were being driven to Mali to be handed over to the militant group, Katiba Macina.

On Friday, May 10, 2019, French special forces carried out a rescue mission in northern Burkina Faso, freeing four hostages.  Two French soldiers died during the mission.

A senior government official said, Burkina Faso is among countries in the vast Sahel region combating Islamist insurgencies in the risky region.

The five countries in Sahel region formed a regional force, G5 Sahel, along with Niger, Chad, Mauritania and Mali to take on the militants. Despite this alliance, nothing significant has been done to eliminate the terrorists who many in some West Africa believe are finance and supported by wealthy individuals and businesses in countries in the Middle East, notably Saudi Arabia.

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.

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