OUAGADOUGOU: Sixty-two people were killed this week in militant attacks and subsequent intercommunal clashes in north Burkina Faso, a minister said Wednesday.
“There were 62 deaths,” Simeon Sawadogo, minister for territorial administration, said of the violence between Sunday and Tuesday in Arbina commune, near the Mali border.
“We have 32 dead because of the terrorists. We have 30 who died because of community conflicts, reprisals between (the communities of) Kouroumba, Peuls, Mossis etc.”
The militant “chased people and killed people,” Sawadogo said in his televised statement, adding that nine were kidnapped.
Armed individuals on Sunday night stormed the village of Hamkan, seven kilometers (four miles) from Arbinda, where they killed the village’s religious leader, his eldest son and his nephew, the minister said.
“Following the killing of Sheikh Werem, there were clashes between communities in Arbinda, which resulted in retaliation on both sides,” according to Sawadogo, describing a “deplorable situation.”
The minister said people from surrounding villages made their way to Arbinda after the violence.
“The security situation is such that no one is safe,” he said, insisting that extra safety measures had been put in place in the area.
Burkina Faso, a former French colony, has seen a surge in attacks blamed on Islamist groups — mainly the Ansaroul Islam group and the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) — in the last four years.
This week’s violence follows a massacre of 160 people during an attack on a Fulani village in neighboring Mali on March 23.
“The intention of the terrorists is actually to create conflict between the different communities,” said Sawadogo, calling on people “not to fall into the trap by linking a community as the cause of our misfortune.”
Kidnapped Canadian found dead
Meanwhile, Daesh claimed to have kidnapped and killed a Canadian citizen in Burkina Faso in January, but security sources said they believed he actually died during a botched attempt by a criminal gang to sell him on to another group.
Canadian geologist Kirk Woodman’s body was found on Jan. 16, two days after his abduction by a dozen gunmen at a mining site operated by Vancouver-based Progress Minerals in the northeast of the landlocked West African country.
Burkina Faso officials said he had been shot, and his body was dumped in an area that is under growing threat from Islamist militants, some with links to Daesh and Al-Qaeda.
In an article trumpeting Daesh’s insurgencies in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the group’s weekly Al-Naba newspaper detailed an operation to kidnap and kill Woodman and showed a photograph of what it claimed was his driver’s license.
The Daesg newspaper said “the kidnapping and killing of a Canadian crusader” has increased the West’s interest in “the war of the Mujahideen” in Burkina Faso.
Two security sources in Burkina Faso, however, told Reuters that they thought Woodman was abducted by a criminal gang and killed as it tried to sell him on to presumed militants.
Woodman’s body was left in the desert by “the Caliphate soldiers,” Al-Naba said, though it put a date on Woodman’s execution using the Islamic calendar that would equate to Jan. 25 — several days after the body was actually found.