No less than 33 people were killed when gunmen opened fire on vegetable farmers in a jihadist-hit region of Burkina Faso, the governor said Saturday, as the country struggles to stem an insurgency.
A state of emergency has been in force in eight of Burkina Faso’s 13 regions since March, including in western Boucle du Mouhoun.
The attack on the farmers happened on Thursday evening around 5:00 pm (1700 GMT), Governor Babo Pierre Bassinga said in a statement.
“The village of Youlou in the department of Cheriba, Mouhoun province suffered a cowardly and barbaric terrorist attack,” he said.
“The gunmen targeted peaceful civilians” who were farming along the river, he said, adding that the “provisional death toll” included 33 people.
Local sources said heavily armed assailants on motorcycles had fired indiscriminately on the farmers.
The victims were buried on Friday.
In Cheriba, residents said three other people had sustained bullet wounds in the attack, and that the perpetrators had burned property before shooting.
The governor said that security in the area was being enhanced.
Bassinga urged the local population to “redouble their vigilance and continue collaborating with the fighting forces for a victory against terrorism and a definitive return of peace and stability”.
– State of emergency –
Thursday’s attack comes just days after a senior official from the Boucle du Mouhoun region was found dead in the forest.
Amadou Kabore, the prefect — the highest representative of the state — was found dead after he had been abducted at gunpoint when his car was stopped by armed men, according to locals.
In April, the army said it had carried out an anti-jihadist operation in the same region, mobilising more than 800 soldiers and members of the VDP volunteer militia.
The same month, a series of suspected jihadist attacks across the country killed dozens of soldiers and civilian army replacements.
The government implemented a state of emergency in March in areas most affected by jihadist attacks. The measure, which allows security forces to conduct searches of homes and restricts rights like freedom of movement and assembly, was extended on Friday for another six months.
Burkina Faso, which saw two military coups in 2022, has been battling a jihadist insurgency that crossed from Mali in 2015.
Captain Ibrahim Traore, Burkina’s transitional president after staging the most recent coup on September 30, has set a goal of recapturing 40 percent of the country’s territory, which is controlled by jihadists affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
The violence has seen more than 10,000 killed — both civilians and military — according to the NGOs, and displaced an estimated two million people.