Updated: Dec 5, 2019
DAKAR, Senegal - Gunmen launched yet another attack on a church service in the West African nation of Burkina Faso, killing 14 people and wounding several others in the small eastern town of Hantoukoura.
Sunday’s massacre follows attacks by radical Islamist insurgents on military posts, a mining convoy and places of worship in the restive countryside that the army has struggled to contain.
The assailants fled on motorbikes after spraying bullets into the Protestant congregation, authorities said.
“I offer my deepest condolences to the bereaved families and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded,” Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Marc Kaboré, tweeted late Sunday.
No group has asserted responsibility for the attack yet, but fighters linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda routinely ambush soldiers and civilians in a campaign to sow division, gain recruits and seize territory.
Such attacks have quadrupled during the past two years in Burkina Faso, which was once known as a peaceful farming state that prized art and religious tolerance. The country of 19 million is about two-thirds Muslim, with a Christian minority.
U.S. officials have warned that extremist groups are exploiting the remote terrain to train, forcibly recruit followers and plan attacks to carry out worldwide.
The number of deaths is on track to increase 60 percent this year, compared with the toll of 1,112 in 2018, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington.
Roughly 500,000 Christian and non-Muslim people have been forced from their homes amid the unrest, the United Nations estimates.
“People fleeing the violence report attacks on their villages by Islamic extremists who often forcibly recruit male residents at gunpoint, killing those who resist,” Babar Baloch, a spokesman for the United Nations’ refugee agency, told reporters in Geneva last month. “Militants also stole cattle and other possessions.”