SIX people including a priest were gunned down in an attack on a church in Burkina Faso during a celebration of mass last weekend. The church and other buildings were looted and burned.
It is the third attack on a church in the country in recent weeks, during an upsurge in violence linked to a number of Islamist groups, including those affiliated to the Islamic State group.
Christian Aid’s regional emergency manager in Burkina Faso, Paul Ilboudo, said that the latest attacks have all targeted Christians. He said there had also been a fourth attack, on Monday this week, in which four Roman Catholics were killed during a procession.
He said that schools and health centres have closed because of the violence, and the continuing insecurity and lack of funding were hampering the humanitarian response.
The United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, urged “all citizens of Burkina Faso to stand firmly with one another across communities and not to succumb to efforts to sow discord and breed further violence”.
The attack occured just days after the UN warned of an “unprecedented” rise in armed violence across the Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, that risks spilling out into other West African counties.
The UN said that more than 330,000 people had fled their homes owing to ongoing violence in the past 12 months in the region. The latest UN figures suggest that 5.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger’s western Tahoua and Tillabéri regions.
“We cannot stress enough the urgency of the situation. The future of a whole generation is at stake,” the UN resident co-ordinator for Burkina Faso, Metsi Makhetha, said. He referred to attacks by “ISIS-inspired” armed groups.
“The attacks are increasing, the methods are getting sophisticated; we are seeing more and more targeting of civilians. We need even a concerted effort so that we can really create conditions that will enable the communities to strengthen their traditional community links.”
She warned that community tension “is something that we can ill-afford, and we have to do everything to make sure that the communities are supported because when we don’t, it is also very fertile terrain for recruitment and it is very fertile terrain for increased grievances.”