The president of the West African nation of Burkina Faso has confirmed that 14 people were killed in an attack on a Protestant church in the country’s east, Christianity Today reports.
Going on Twitter, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said Sunday that he condemned “the barbaric attack” in the town of Hantoukoura. He said several people also were wounded. Kabore offered his “deepest condolences to the bereaved families and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded.”
A statement from the regional government said that many people are injured. A security source told AFP news agency that armed individuals carried out the attack, “executing the faithful including the pastor and children”.
“Unidentified armed men” carried out the attack during a Sunday service at a Protestant church in the town of Hantoukoura near the border with Niger. This attack unfortunately left 14 dead and many wounded,“ the government statement said.
Soldiers in the region were hunting down the assailants, who fled on scooters, a security source said earlier.
Burkina Faso’s population is around two-thirds Muslim and one-third Christian. Jihadist groups target Christian clerics as well as Muslim ones they do not consider sufficiently radical in a country where traditionally the two religions have co-existed peaceably.
Islamic extremists have been active in Burkina Faso since 2015. Jihadists have attacked police stations and churches across the country’s north but also recently have struck in the east. Last October, 15 people were killed and two seriously injured in an attack on a mosque.
In October, gunmen generally believed to be Islamic extremists attacked a convoy carrying employees of a mining company in that region, killing at least 37 people. The US State Department warns against travel in most of Burkina Faso, stating that terrorists may attack places of worship and other targets.
CT reported on a wave of similar church attacks in April and May.
“It’s not only the church … that has been attacked; all the values of tolerance, forgiveness, and love that have always led our country have been hurt,” said Henri Yé, president of the Federation of Evangelical Churches and Missions in Burkina Faso, in an April 30 statement after the first attack.
“The freedom of worship consecrated by our fundamental law [the Constitution] has been flouted.”
“In the face of blind hatred, let us ask God to give us the strength to spread love, which makes us the children of God,” stated Yé in April. “The unity of the body of Christ and of the whole nation must be preserved at all costs.”
Hundreds of people have been killed in the country over the past few years, mostly by jihadist groups, sparking ethnic and religious tensions especially on the border with Mali.The conflict spread across the border from neighbouring Mali where Islamist militants took over the north of the country in 2012 before French troops pushed them out.