.The death toll from Burkina Faso’s bloodiest militant attack in recent years has increased to132, according to the government, after armed intruders laid siege to a community in the country’s jihadist-infested northeast overnight.
On Friday night, the attackers struck during the night, killing residents of the village of Solhan in Yagha province, which borders Niger. They also set fire to houses and the market, as well as the government.
It declared the attackers to be terrorists for a 72-hour period of national mourning, though no group claimed responsibility. Another 40 residents were injured, according to government spokesperson Ousseni Tamboura. The attack, which killed seven children, outraged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, according to the UN.
Despite the presence of thousands of U.N. peacekeepers, attacks by jihadists linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in West Africa’s Sahel region have risen sharply since the start of the year, particularly in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, with civilians bearing the brunt.
The violence in Burkina Faso has displaced more than 1.14 million people in just over two years, while the poor, arid country is hosting some 20,000 refugees from neighboring Mali.
The latest attack pushes the number killed by armed Islamists in the Sahel region to over 500 since January, according to Human Rights Watch’s West Africa director, Corinne Dufka.
“The dynamic is that the jihadists enter, they overwhelm the civil defense office and collectively punish the rest of the village – this is a pattern we have seen throughout this year,” stated Dufka.
In March, in coordinated raids on villages in the southwest of Niger, assailants killed 137 people.