By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
At least thirty people were killed by gunmen in Burkina Faso, in an attack during which villagers’ homes and properties were destroyed as they tried to flee for their lives.
The attack took place in Kodyel village in the Komandjari province on Monday, in the East Region, near the border with Niger.
It is not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, but violence fueled by Islamist extremist groups are not uncommon in the country, especially in the areas bordering Mali and Niger.
News sources say that the armed men surrounded the village, started setting fire to houses and killing people. Several others were also injured and many granaries were also set alight by the gunmen.
The militants reportedly targeted Kodyel village because its residents, mostly from the Gurma community, had joined the ranks of the volunteer militiamen enlisted by the government to help the army. This move has incurred retaliation by the rebels who attack the volunteer militiamen and the communities they help.
Monday’s attack comes exactly one week after two Spanish journalists and an Irish wildlife activist were killed. Another Burkinabe soldier went missing when his anti-poaching patrol unit was ambushed by rebels in the region.
Yet still, at least 18 people were killed and one person severely injured last week, in another attack on Yattakou village in the Seno area, which caused many residents to flee.
Burkina Faso has been facing a worsening security crisis, as well as many of its neighbors, with increased activities of violent actors and Islamist armed groups carrying out raids and kidnappings in the Sahel region.
The armed groups have also driven ethnic and religious tensions between farming and herding communities in the region in order to boost recruitment among marginalized communities.
Despite efforts by the nation’s security personnel to contain the spread of violence, thousands have been killed and nearly three million people have been displaced.
France and other foreign allies have deployed troops to the region but their efforts so far have failed to end the insurgency.