At least 138 civilians died in the early hours of Saturday in two attacks in northern Burkina Faso, the bloodiest episode recorded in this African country since the beginning in 2015 of a wave of jihadist violence. The attacks, committed within hours of each other, took place in the so-called “three-border” area, between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, a region subjected to violence by jihadists, whether affiliated with Al Qaida or the group Islamic State.
“On the night of Friday to Saturday, armed individuals carried out a murderous raid in Solhan, in Yagha province,” a security service source told AFP, describing the first attack. «Several injured succumbed to their wounds and new bodies were found. The balance, still provisional, is 138 dead “, declared on Saturday night a local deputy, who specified that” the bodies were buried in mass graves».
“In addition to the high human balance, the worst registered to date, houses and the market were burned” in Solhan, said another security source.
The attack began around two in the morning (local time and GMT), first against the post of the Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland (VDP), a paramilitary militia, and then against civilians.
The authorities decreed a national mourning of 72 hours, from midnight on Saturday, June 5. For his part, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, was “outraged” by the massacre of civilians and called for international support for Burkina Faso, said his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric. Guterres “strongly condemns this horrible attack and underlines the urgent need for the international community to strengthen its support for one of its members in his fight against extremist violence and its unacceptable human cost,” Dujarric said in a statement.
Solhan, a small town located about 15 kilometers from Sebba, capital of Yagha province (near the Malian border) has been scene of numerous attacks in recent years. On May 5, the armed forces launched an operation in the northern and Sahel regions to combat jihadist attacks, which since 2015 have caused more than 1,400 deaths and forced a million people from their homes.
In a message of condolences to the families of the victims, Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré denounced a “barbaric and ignoble attack.” “We have to remain united and in solidarity with these obscurantist forces,” he added.
During Saturday, lines of people fled towards Sebba, described the local deputy under anonymity. «These displacements have also caused victims because three people died on the Solhan-Sebba axis, since the cart that was transporting them exploded when it rolled over an artisanal mine ». In addition to that attack, on Friday night another took place in a village in the same region, Tadaryat, in which at least 14 people were killed, including a member of the militias. Those attacks came a week after two more in the same area, leaving four dead in total, including two members of the VDP.
The VDPs were created in December 2019 to support the army in surveillance, information and protection tasks, after a 14-day military training. Those civilians have paid a high tribute for that support, with more than 200 dead since 2020., according to an AFP count. Jihadist groups have staged high-profile attacks in Burkina Faso in recent years, which have killed dozens.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism