Burkina Faso: 37 people killed in the worst jihadist attack in five years

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The attack, carried out by "unidentified armed individuals", targeted a convoy of five buses carrying workers from a gold mine of the Canadian company Semafo.

With 37 dead and 60 injured, it is the deadliest jihadist attack in nearly five years in Burkina Faso. On Wednesday morning, a convoy of five buses carrying workers from a gold mine of the Canadian company Semafo was targeted by "unidentified individuals".

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"The provisional record of this ambush shows 37 civilian deaths and 60 wounded," said the governor of the eastern region, Colonel Saidou Sanou.

The five buses were carrying personnel, contractors and suppliers related to the mining company, and they were escorted by soldiers.

"Complex attack"

The attack occurred 40 kilometers from the Boungou gold mine (owned by Semafo), whose activities were unaffected, the company said. Semafo initially reported on "several dead and wounded". The attackers conducted a "complex attack," the Burkinabe government said in a statement Wednesday night.

"A military vehicle carrying the escort at the top of the convoy jumped on an explosive device, and two buses carrying workers were fired on," said a security source speaking on condition of anonymity. "The defense and security forces have launched a" relief "operation and have undertaken a search of the area," said the government.

Semafo, a Canadian gold producer based in Montreal, expressed its condolences "to the families of the victims" and expressed "its strong support for the security forces of Burkina Faso," according to a statement. The Burkina Faso government has asked the mining companies this year to make special arrangements for the movement of its employees, according to sources close to the mines.

Nearly 700 deaths in five years

Two deadly attacks had already targeted convoys of Boungou mine personnel and their escorts in August and December 2018, leaving 11 dead in total. But the record of Wednesday's attack makes it the deadliest in Burkina Faso since the beginning of the spiral of jihadist violence almost five years ago.

On January 15, 2016, 30 people, mostly Westerners, were killed and 71 wounded during a jihadist raid on the Hotel Splendid and the Cappuccino restaurant in Ouagadougou, the capital. On 19 August, an attack hit a military base in Koutougou, killing at least 24 people, the deadliest attack ever suffered by the Burkinabe army since 2015.

In total, attacks attributed to jihadist groups, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, others to the Islamic State movement, have killed nearly 700 people since early 2015 and about 500,000 internally displaced persons and refugees, according to the UN.

The entire Sahel region, including Mali and Niger, neighbors of Burkina, is affected by the violence of jihadist groups, despite the establishment of a multinational regional force (G5-Sahel) supported by the French force Barkhane and by the American army.

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