The Burkina Faso authorities announced, on Saturday evening, that 41 civilians and soldiers were killed, in an attack carried out by armed men, Thursday, in the north of the country, whose President Roch Marc Christian Kabore declared 48 hours of national mourning.
The government said in a statement on Saturday evening that “the combing mission in the area of the ambush set by armed terrorist groups against a convoy of homeland defense volunteers and civilians on Thursday, December 23, found 41 bodies,” explaining that the country’s president declared “a 48-hour national mourning.”
The statement said that among the victims was Ladji Uro, who was considered one of the leaders of the volunteers for the defense of the homeland.
Burkina Faso’s weak and ill-equipped army to combat the militants relies on these civilian backup forces, whose personnel are rehabilitated within two weeks, and who pay a heavy price for their mission.
The President of Burkina Faso, on Friday, praised the fighter Ledje Euro. “This daring volunteer to defend the homeland should be a model of our firm commitment to fighting the enemy,” the head of state wrote on Twitter.
The executive authority has not yet released any information about the attack.
In its statement, the government “strongly condemned this barbarism” and said that the process of “identifying the victims is still ongoing.”
Local media reported that an ambush was set up by armed men, probably targeting a convoy of merchants, accompanied by volunteers for the defense of the homeland, about 20 kilometers from Wahigoya, in the north of the country.
This is the deadliest attack since the Inata attack in the north of the country in mid-November, which killed 57 people, including 53 gendarmes, which sparked strong resentment among the population.
Two weeks before this attack, the gendarmerie in Inata warned their leadership about their precarious situation, stressing that they suffer from a lack of food and only obtain food from poaching.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in the capital, Ouagadougou, on November 27 to demand the departure of the executive branch, which they accuse of being unable to stop the violence perpetrated by jihadists.
About ten people were injured in incidents that followed the dispersal of demonstrators, including a child and two journalists, during the police firing of tear gas, and security personnel were also injured, according to the government, which did not specify their number. A number of protesters were also arrested.
Like its neighbors Mali and Niger, Burkina Faso has been witnessing since 2015 a cycle of violence attributed to armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS.
These acts of violence have resulted in at least 2,000 deaths and the displacement of 1.4 million people.
The violence affects strongly the “three borders” region with Mali and Niger.
At the beginning of December, the government was dismissed and a new prime minister was appointed, former UN staff member Lasina Zerbo. A large number of ministers retained their positions, including the ministers of defence, security or the economy.
Zerbo, 58, served as Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization from 2013 until last August. He was appointed to succeed Joseph Dabiri, who was sacked after failing to quell the anger of the public.
The President of Burkina Faso called for “unity” to “defeat terrorism”.