Gunmen killed around 100 civilians in an attack on a village in northern Burkina Faso, the latest grim incident in years of unrelenting violence that has battered the landlocked west African country, leaving thousands dead and displacing more than 1m.
The government described the gunmen as terrorists and said they had attacked Solhan, which lies near the border with Niger, late on Friday night, burning homes and the local market.
“The defence and security forces are at work to search for and neutralise the perpetrators of this despicable act,” president Roch Kabore said. “We must remain united and united against these forces of evil.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but local groups affiliated with Isis and al-Qaeda have increased attacks in the region since the start of the year.
Last year, violence in Burkina Faso fell dramatically due to an unofficial ceasefire ahead of elections in November. But analysts have said that truce has since frayed.
The attack comes a month after at least 30 people were killed by gunmen in nearby Kolydel. The border region where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, has become a locus of extremist activity, and the focus of the counter-terrorism effort in the Sahel led by France’s 5,000-troop Operation Barkhane.
France intervened in the region in 2013 to crush a jihadist insurgency that had taken over northern Mali. Despite a 13,000-troop UN peacekeeping mission, and thousands of French and domestic soldiers, violence has since spread to central Mali, spilling into Niger and Burkina Faso, which has seen a precipitous collapse, with wide swaths falling out of government control.
On top of the violence, the region is undergoing a period of severe political instability, which could affect the fight against jihadism. This week France suspended its joint operations with the Malian army after its second coup in less than a year.
In April, another key ally in the fight, Chad — whose soldiers are thought to be the most experienced and effective in the region — suffered a blow when its strongman leader Idriss Déby was killed by rebels.
The military swiftly installed his son as the interim president, but questions remain about how solid an ally Chad will be given strife within the upper ranks of the military.