Four people were killed on Sunday, May 26 at a Catholic church in northern Burkina Faso in the latest in a series of attacks on Christian targets in the region, a security source said.
“Heavily armed individuals attacked the church … as the faithful were celebrating Sunday Mass” in the town of Toulfé, the source said, adding that three people were killed.
Infowakat also reported that three people were killed and several others injured.
The Bishop of Ouahigouya, Justin Kientega, said in a later statement that the “Christian community of Toulfe was the target of a terrorist attack which gathered for Sunday prayers. The attack left four of the faithful dead.”
Toulfé is around 20 km (12 miles) northeast of Loroum province capital Titao in the North region.
Burkina Faso’s population is around two-thirds Muslim and one-third Christian.
On May 13, gunmen killed four Catholics in a religious procession, the day after a priest and five parishioners were murdered during Sunday mass in the town of Dablo.
In late April, in the first apparent jihadist attack on a church, gunmen killed four worshippers and their Protestant pastor in small the town of Silgadji, northeast of Ouahigouya, which is the largest city in Burkina Faso’s north.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso has been battling an escalating wave of attacks over the last three years, beginning in the North region near the border with Mali.
The former French colony lies in the heart of the sprawling, impoverished Sahel, on the southern rim of the Sahara desert.
Attacks have spread to the East region, near the border with Togo, Benin and Niger, and to a lesser extent, the west of the country.
Most attacks are attributed to the jihadist group Ansar ul Islam, which emerged near the Mali border in December 2016, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM), which has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara..
According to a recent Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project analysis, violence by armed groups in Burkina Faso has spiked, with 499 fatalities reported from 124 direct civilian targeting events between November 1 and March 23, representing a 7,000% year-on-year rise.
On May 10, two French special forces personnel were killed in an operation that freed four foreign hostages during an overnight raid. The two soldiers killed were part of the “Task Force Sabre” unit of France’s Operation Barkhane which is based in Burkina Faso.
With reporting from AFP. This post was updated on May 26.