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At least 15 slain in Burkina Faso Catholic church attack

  • Fifteen worshippers killed
  • “Terrorist attack” at mass
  • Violence challenges government control

Church officials have reported that at least fifteen Catholic worshippers were killed when gunmen attacked a community gathering for mass at a church in the conflict-affected northern region of Burkina Faso.

The violence on Sunday in the village of Essakane was described as a “terrorist attack” by the vicar-general of the Catholic Diocese of Dori, Essakane, Abbot Jean-Pierre Sawadogo. He stated that twelve attendees were killed at the scene, and three more succumbed to their wounds while being treated.

Additionally, two others were injured in the assault.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the incident.

Sawadogo stated, “We earnestly request prayers for the repose of the souls of the departed, the recovery of the injured, and… the conversion of those who continue to inflict devastation and death upon our country.”

The shooting occurred in an area where armed factions have carried out numerous attacks, some of which have specifically targeted Christian places of worship and involved the kidnapping of clergy.

Armed groups have ravaged Burkina Faso for years, leaving the government in control of only about half of the country. The violence has resulted in thousands of deaths and displaced over two million people, further threatening the stability of a country that has experienced two coups in 2022.

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Since the first coup in January 2022, the military dictatorship has struggled to restore order in violent districts. An August 2023 Africa Centre for Strategic Studies assessment found that armed group casualties have nearly tripled. This increase occurred in the eighteen months preceding it.

The situation is further complicated by the country’s porous borders with Mali and Niger. Both are also ruled by military regimes facing their own security challenges, and the military government has limited capacity.

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