More than 10 Dead in Assault on Catholic Church

( – A Feb. 25 attack in the West African country of Burkina Faso that happened during Sunday worship at a Catholic church has left 15 people dead and two more injured.

The attack occurred in the Essakane village, located in the Oudalan province in the north-eastern region of Burkina Faso, which shares a border with Niger and Mali.

A statement from Abbot Jean-Pierre Sawadogo, the head of the Catholic Diocese of Dori, said 12 people were killed at the scene, and three people died after being transported to the hospital.

In the statement, Jean-Pierre Sawadogo called for peace and denounced the attack by people who “wreak death and desolation in our country”.

Though no group claimed responsibility, the gunmen were suspected to be Islamist militants, according to a church official.

Following Libya’s 2011 civil war and an Islamist takeover in 2012 of northern Mali, the region has faced rising violent extremism as the jihadist insurgency has spilled over into Burkina Faso. More than a third of the region is under the control of Islamist groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, who have attacked remote communities, security forces, and churches, killing thousands of worshippers and kidnapping clergy members. Over 2 million of the country’s 24 million people have been displaced, and 20,000 killed, in the Sahel region by the groups.

The country, ruled by a military dictatorship, has grown more unstable since the two coups in 2022. According to an August report from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the number of people killed by jihadis since the coups has nearly tripled compared with the 18 previous months.

The countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger all pulled out of the regional political and economic bloc, Ecowas, which had suspended the countries from the bloc after urging the three countries to return to democratic rule.

In a statement in early February, Burkina Faso’s military-backed president Ibrahim Traoré said that, if needed, Russian troops could deploy to the region to help fight jihadists.

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