At least 100 killed in terrorist raids on villages in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso has struggled against extremists who are waging an insurgency across northern Nigeria, Mali and Chad in the arid Sahel region

Aerial view of Djibo town, Burkina Faso, Feb. 18, 2021, the epicenter of Burkina Faso's conflict. While Burkina Faso's government never confirmed negotiating with Islamic extremists, others said the lull in fighting earlier this year was a sign that a cease-fire of sorts had been reached with the militants blamed for thousands of deaths in recent years. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick)
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Roving groups of terrorists killed at least 100 civilians in an overnight attack on a village in northern Burkina Faso, the government said.

The attackers struck during the night on Friday, killing residents of the village of Solhan, burning homes and the market, said the government statement, which was released on Saturday. It described them as terrorists.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore denounced the attack near the borders with Mali and Niger, where militants linked to Al Qaeda and ISIS have been targeting civilians and soldiers.

"We must remain united and solid against these obscurantist forces," Mr Kabore said, condemning the massacre at Solhan as "barbaric" and "despicable".

"The toll, which is still provisional, is about about 100 dead, men and woman of different ages," a security source told AFP.

Assailants struck at around 2am against a position of the Volunteers for the Defence of the Motherland (VDP), a civilian defence force, before attacking homes and carrying out killings, a local source said.

"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 100 dead may increase".

Early on Saturday, locals told AFP that at least 14 people had been killed in a raid on another village, Tadaryat.

“The attackers carried off several things belonging to the local people including motorbikes and livestock,” a local source said.

Burkina Faso, a poor, landlocked country in the heart of the Sahel, has been fighting an insurgency linked to ISIS and Al Qaeda.

The VDP was set up in December 2019 to help the poorly equipped military fight extremist groups.

Tadaryat is part of the Markoye commune in Oudalan province, near the border with Mali to the north, and Niger to the east.

Another security source said a military convoy and members of the VDP civilian auxiliary had clashed with forces at Katia, in the same zone as on Friday, but there had been no casualties.

The same source also referred to another attack, overnight from Friday to Saturday, against a VDP base.

The VDP volunteers are given two weeks’ military training, then work alongside the security forces, typically carrying out surveillance, information-gathering or escort duties. The force has suffered more than 200 deaths, according to an AFP tally.

Since 2015, Burkina Faso has struggled to fight back against increasingly frequent and deadly attacks from extremist groups, including the Group to Support Islam and Muslims and ISIS in the Greater Sahara.

The attacks first started in the north near the Mali border, but have since spread to other regions, particularly in the east.

About 1,400 people have died and more than a million have fled their homes.