Dozens killed during prayers at Burkina Faso mosque

Connie Queline

Dozens killed during prayers at Burkina Faso mosque

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Dozens of people have been shot dead at a mosque on the same day that a church was attacked, say the authorities in Burkina Faso.

It was during early-morning prayers that the gunmen surrounded the mosque in Natiaboani town.

“The victims were all Muslims, most of them men,” a local resident told the AFP news agency.

More than a third of Burkina Faso is currently under the control of Islamist insurgents.

The attackers are suspected to be Islamist fighters who also targeted soldiers and a self-defence militia stationed locally that same day.

Local media describe (in French) a huge invasion by hundreds of machine gun-wielding militants on motorbikes.

Unverified reports on social media suggest the death toll from the mosque attack could be much higher than the count given by officials.

Natiaboani, where those attacks happened, is in Burkina Faso’s troubled eastern region where multiple armed groups operate.

That same day, at least 15 worshippers were killed in an attack on a Catholic church during Sunday mass in Essakane in the country’s north-east. A church official said suspected Islamist militants were to blame.

No link has been formally made between the two attacks, but Burkina Faso’s privately owned L’Observateur Paalga newspaper has questioned whether they were part of a coordinated plot.

Attacks on religious figures are not uncommon in Burkina Faso.

A priest who was kidnapped from the northern town of Djibo five years ago is still missing. And in 2021, the main imam of the same town of Djibo was kidnapped by armed men and found dead days later.

Humanitarian workers say Burkina Faso is one of the world’s most-neglected crises.

Years of rampant insecurity has forced more than two million people from their homes, and the UN estimates that a quarter of all children under five have stunted growth resulting from hunger.

The military seized power two years ago promising to win the battle against insurgents but the violence continues.

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