Gunmen kill six during Catholic mass in Burkina Faso

Troops ride in a vehicle in central Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, March 2, 2018. (AP)
Updated 13 May 2019
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Gunmen kill six during Catholic mass in Burkina Faso

  • Around 4.3 million people have been driven from their homes in the worsening violence that has engulfed the entire Sahel region

OUAGADOUGOU: Gunmen killed a priest and five parishioners during mass Sunday in an attack on a Catholic church in Dablo, northern Burkina Faso, security sources and a local official said.
“Towards 9:00 am, during mass, armed individuals burst into the Catholic church,” Dablo mayor Ousmane Zongo told AFP. “They started firing as the congregation tried to flee.”
The attackers — between 20 and 30 according to a security source — managed to trap some of the worshippers, Zongo added. “They killed five of them. The priest, who was celebrating mass, was also killed.”
The gunmen then set fire to the church, several shops and a small cafe before heading to the local health center, which they looted, burning the chief nurse’s vehicle.
“There is an atmosphere of panic in the town,” said Zongo.
“People are holed up in their homes. Nothing is going on. The shops and stores are closed. It’s practically a ghost town,” he added.
Security reinforcements were sent from Barsalogho, about 45 kilometers (30 miles) south of Dablo, and were combing the area, a security source told AFP. Dablo is located in the northern province of Sanmatenga.
Condemning the “barbaric and cowardly attack,” the government confirmed the toll of six killed, including a priest.
After “failing to pit communities against each other with targeted killings of traditional chiefs and community leaders, terrorist groups are now attacking religion in an evil plot to divide us,” it said in a statement.
The attack came two days after French special forces freed four foreign hostages in the north of the country in an overnight raid that cost the lives of two soldiers.
The operation was ordered to free French hostages Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas who disappeared while on holiday in the remote Pendjari National Park in Benin on May 1.
The team also found two other female captives, an American woman and a South Korean.

Sunday’s church strike came two weeks after a similar attack against a Protestant church in Silgadji, also in the north, when gunmen on motorbikes killed a pastor and five worshippers.
Burkina Faso has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
The raids began in 2015 in the north before targeting the capital Ouagadougou and other regions, notably in the east.
Nearly 400 people have been killed since 2015 — mainly in hit-and-run raids — according to an AFP tally.
Jihadist groups target both Muslim and Christian clerics, mainly in the north.
According to security sources, the jihadists do not consider certain Muslim clerics sufficiently radical and sometimes accuse them of having collaborated with the authorities.
Religious leaders are not the only people targeted by the extremists. Last month, jihadists attacked a village school in Maitaougou, in the eastern province of Koulpelogo, killing five teachers and a municipal worker.
Former colonial ruler France has deployed 4,500 troops in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to help local forces flush out jihadist groups.
Around 4.3 million people have been driven from their homes in the worsening violence that has engulfed the entire Sahel region, including one million over the past year, according to UN humanitarian officials.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned Sunday’s attack and offered condolences as he cited “the sanctity of all places of worship,” according to a UN spokesman.
Guterres “urges all citizens of Burkina Faso to stand firmly with one another across communities and not to succumb to efforts to sow discord and breed further violence.”


Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

Updated 25 May 2019
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Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is preparing a belt-tightening budget to tame its fiscal deficit, the de facto finance minister said on Saturday, adding that both civilian and military rulers agreed austerity measures were needed to stabilise the economy.
But Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan's top finance adviser, declined to say whether the military's hefty budget would be cut following last week's agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion loan.
The IMF has said the primary budget deficit should be trimmed by the equivalent of $5 billion, but previous civilian rulers have rarely dared to trim defence spending for fear of stoking tensions with the military.
Unlike some other civilian leaders in Pakistan's fragile democracy, Khan appears to have good relations with the country's powerful generals.
More than half of state spending currently goes on the military and debt-servicing costs, however, limiting the government's options for reducing expenditure.
"The budget that is coming will have austerity, that means that the government's expenditures will be put at a minimum level," Shaikh told a news conference in the capital Islamabad on Saturday, a few weeks before the budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year ending in June is due to be presented.
"We are all standing together in it whether civilians or our military," said Shaikh, a former finance minister appointed by Khan as part of a wider shake-up of his economic team in the last two months.
In the days since last week's agreement with the IMF, the rupee currency dropped 5% against the dollar and has lost a third of its value in the past year.
Under the IMF's terms, the government is expected to let the rupee fall to help correct an unsustainable current account deficit and cut its debt while trying to expand the tax base in a country where only 1% of people file returns.
Shaikh has been told by the IMF that the primary budget deficit -- excluding interest payments -- should be cut to 0.6% of GDP, implying a $5 billion reduction from the current projection for a deficit of 2.2% of GDP.
The next fiscal year's revenue collection target will be 5.55 trillion rupees ($36.88 billion), Shaikh told the news conference, highlighting the need for tough steps to broaden the tax base.