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OUAGADOUGOU: At least fifty civilians died this weekend in an attack by suspected jihadists in the village of Seytenga in northern Burkina Faso, one of the heaviest tolls since the military junta took power in January.

“The army has examined all the houses and 50 bodies have been found so far,” government spokesman Lionel Bilgo said, fearing a “heavier” toll. According to the European Union, the attack “would have caused more than a hundred civilian casualties”.

“The relatives have returned to Seytenga and may have taken the bodies away,” Lionel Bilgo explained at a press conference on Monday.

The attack took place overnight from Saturday to Sunday, the government spokesman said.

Seytenga had already been hit on Thursday by a jihadist attack that killed eleven gendarmes.

The Burkinabé army had announced that it had killed about forty jihadists following this attack.

The weekend killings “are retaliation for the army’s actions that have caused bloodshed” within jihadist groups, Bilgo said.

“The army is at work,” he said.

According to humanitarian organizations in the north of the country, since Sunday after fleeing Seytenga, 3,000 people have gathered in nearby cities.

The EU expressed its condemnation, asking that “light be shed on the circumstances of this murder”. “The method used by the terrorist group responsible for the attack, namely the systematic execution of anyone they meet in the village, is appalling,” European diplomacy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

Resumption of attacks

It is one of the deadliest jihadist attacks since Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba took power in a coup in late January.

He then overthrew President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who had become largely unpopular and accused of ineffectiveness against insecurity.

Two attacks had particularly marked the minds: the deadliest in the history of the country, against the village of Solhan (north-east) in June 2021, which according to the government had killed 132 people and that of Inata (north) in November 2021 where they were 57 gendarmes were killed.

This latest attack resulted in an electric shock in the army, which took power a few weeks later.

After Lieutenant Colonel Damiba came to power, who wanted to make security “his priority”, the attacks of these movements affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State had stalled.

But in the past three months they have taken over and killed nearly 300 civilians and soldiers.

The north and east of the country, on the border with Mali and Niger, are the regions most affected by jihadist violence.

On Saturday, several hundred people demonstrated in Pama (east) to denounce the “abandonment” of this part of the country, “besieged” in their opinion by jihadist groups since last February.

Since February, the telephone masts and power lines have been sabotaged by armed jihadist groups, which also control the main axes of the area.

Several municipalities in the north and east such as Djibo, Titao or Madjoari are under blockade by jihadists. The army sometimes manages to send supply convoys there.

“Our troops are strained, under constant pressure,” admitted Lionel Bilgo on Monday.

Since 2015, attacks attributed to jihadists have resulted in more than 2,000 deaths and nearly two million displaced in Burkina Faso.

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