The death toll from the worst militant attack in West African’s Burkina Faso in recent years has risen to 132, the government said on Saturday, after armed assailants laid siege overnight to a village in the Islamist extremist-plagued northeast.
The attackers struck after midnight on Friday, killing residents of the village of Solhan in Yagha province, bordering Niger. They also burned homes and the market, the government said in a statement.
It declared a 72-hour period of national mourning, describing the attackers as terrorists, although no group has claimed responsibility. Another 40 residents were wounded, government spokesperson Ousseni Tamboura later told reporters.
Attacks by Islamist extremists linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State in West Africa’s Sahel region have risen sharply since the start of the year, particularly in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, with civilians bearing the brunt.
The violence in Burkina Faso has displaced more than 1.14 million people in just more than two years, while the poor, arid country is hosting 20,000 refugees from neighboring Mali.
The latest attack pushed the number of killed by armed Islamists in the Sahel region to more than 500 since January, according to Human Rights Watch’s West Africa director, Corinne Dufka.
“The dynamic is the jihadists come in, they overpower the civil defense post and engage in collective punishment against the rest of the village — it’s a pattern we’ve seen everywhere this year,” Dufka said.
In March, attackers killed 137 people in coordinated raids on villages in southwestern Niger.