NINETEEN people were killed in a massacre in Burkina Faso last week, which was said to be linked to rising Islamist violence.
Hundreds of people have died in Islamist violence in the country this year. More than 150,000 people have been forced to flee their homes as a result.
The latest incident came after an attack on a Roman Catholic church in the country at the end of May which killed four; an attack on an RC religious procession, in which another four people were killed; and an attack on a Protestant church in late April which killed six people.
After the attack on the RC Church in Toulfé on 26 May, the RC Bishop of Ouagadougou, the Rt Revd Justin Kientega, described the incident as a “terrorist attack”.
He said: “Let us unite our prayers for the repose in God of the martyrs, for a prompt recovery of the wounded, for the consolation of the weeping families, for the conversion of the tormenters, and for peace in our country of Burkina Faso.”
The RC Bishop of Kaya, the Rt Revd Theophile Nare, told Vatican News last month: “I see this as part of jihadists’ strategy, which is to inflame tensions between [the Christian and Muslim] communities through their actions.
“I think the driving vision is to spark war that is inter-ethnic, inter-religious, and inter-communal.”
He said that Christians in the country wanted to escape this cycle of violence, as did most Muslims, as “this is the work of a radicalised group of Muslims.”
Last December, in response to the rising violence, the government declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces.
There are three Islamist groups thought to be active in the region: Ansarul Islam, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
Djallil Lounnas, an expert on militancy in the Sahara at Morocco’s Al Akhawayn University, told the BBC last month that the attacks on churches represented a shift in tactics, as Islamist groups sought to fuel division.