Around 100 civilians were killed overnight in the deadliest attack in Burkina Faso since jihadist violence erupted in the country in 2015, security and local sources said Saturday.
The attack occurred during the night of Friday to Saturday when “armed individuals staged an incursion” into the northern town of Solhan, a security source said.
“The toll, which is still provisional, is about about 100 dead, men and woman of different ages”, the source said.
The government confirmed the attack and the death toll.
Assailants struck around 2:00 am (0200 GMT) against a position of the Volunteers for the Defence of the Motherland (VDP), an anti-jihadist civilian defence force which backs the national army, before attacking homes and carrying out “executions,” a local source said.
The VDP was set up in December 2019 to help Burkina’s poorly-equipped military fight jihadists but it has suffered more than 200 fatalities, according to an AFP tally.
The volunteers are given two weeks’ military training, and then work alongside the security forces, typically carrying out surveillance, information-gathering or escort duties.
“In addition to the heavy human toll, the worst recorded to date, homes and the market were set on fire,” another security source said, voicing concern that the “still temporary toll of a hundred dead may increase.”
The authorities have declared three days of national mourning, ending Monday night at 11:59 pm.
Sohlan, a small community around 15 kilometres from Sebba, the main city in Yagha province near the border with Mali, has been hit with numerous attacks in recent years.
On May 14, Defence Minister Cheriff Sy and military top brass visited Sebba to assure people that life had returned to normal, following a number of military operations.
The massive attack by suspected jihadists came hours after another attack Friday evening on Tadaryat village in the same region, where at least 14 people were killed.
Since 2015 Burkina Faso has struggled to fight back against increasingly frequent and deadly jihadist attacks from groups including the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS).
The attacks first started in the north near the Mali border, but have since spread to other regions, particularly in the east.
Around 1,300 people have died and more than a million have fled their homes.