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.”


New York City Mayor de Blasio ends 2020 presidential bid

Updated 20 September 2019

New York City Mayor de Blasio ends 2020 presidential bid

  • The mayor, who is barred from seeking a third four-year term in New York in 2021, struggled to build a national profile and stand out in a crowded field
  • De Blasio had failed to qualify for a Sept. 12 debate that featured the 10 leading candidates for the party’s nomination

NEW YORK: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday said during an MSNBC television appearance that he was dropping out of the 2020 presidential campaign.
De Blasio, 58, launched his candidacy in May with the central campaign message “Working People First,” becoming the 24th Democrat to attempt to take on President Donald Trump in next year’s election.
The mayor, who is barred from seeking a third four-year term in New York in 2021, struggled to build a national profile and stand out in a crowded field that includes former Vice President Joe Biden and a long list of experienced politicians.
News of the mayor ending his presidential bid was greeted with sarcasm by Trump.
“Oh no, really big political news, perhaps the biggest story in years! Part time Mayor of New York City, @BilldeBlasio, who was polling at a solid ZERO but had tremendous room for growth, has shocking dropped out of the Presidential race,” Trump tweeted early on Friday. “NYC is devastated, he’s coming home!“
De Blasio had registered little support in polls and was eclipsed by progressive US senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
De Blasio said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that a “central reason” for his decision was the party’s rules for qualifying for televised debates. He had failed to qualify for a Sept. 12 debate that featured the 10 leading candidates for the party’s nomination.
“The bar is so high so early that for a lot of us — clearly, some of my fellow chief executives, governors — couldn’t make that cut,” de Blasio said. “It’s clear to me it’s a high bar, and that it’s one I’m not going to be able to meet.”
De Blasio had emphasized during the campaign a list of progressive wins under his leadership, including universal pre-kindergarten, the end of the policing practice known as stop-and-frisk and paid sick leave, all in a city that has a bigger population, more than 8 million, than most US states.
Most New Yorkers had appeared unenthused about de Blasio’s presidential aspirations. A Quinnipiac University poll in April found more than three-quarters of New Yorkers did not feel he should make a White House bid.