The death toll from the deadliest attack in Burkina Faso since 2015, carried out by suspected terrorists who targeted the village of Salhane (northeast), has risen to 160 dead, local sources announced to “Agence France Presse”.
A deputy in the area said: “160 bodies were exhumed yesterday (Saturday) in three mass graves by local residents, including 20 bodies of children.” Another local source confirmed this outcome, explaining that “50 bodies were buried in each of the two mass graves, and 60 bodies were buried in the third cemetery.” “It was the residents who buried the bodies after they were collected and transported” on tricycles, he added.
The previous toll from the same sources indicated on Saturday evening that 138 people were killed, while the government reported 132 dead and about 40 wounded.
The local deputy said that “the situation is still fragile in the area despite the announcement of military operations,” and that residents are still “escaping from Salhan” to the nearby areas of Siba and Dori. He added: “Many have lost everything after their properties and homes were burnt.”
Salhan is a village located about 15 km from the center of Yaga region, which has witnessed a number of attacks attributed to terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda and ISIS in recent years. This region is close to the borders with Mali and Niger.
The attackers initially targeted a center for volunteers to defend the homeland, who are civilians affiliated with the army, according to local sources, then attacked houses in Salahan and executed residents.
A three-day national mourning began (Saturday) in memory of the victims of this “barbaric and outrageous attack”, according to what Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who called on his citizens to “remain united against the dark forces”.
Condemning the attack (Saturday), UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed the “urgent need for the international community to strengthen its support for one of its members in its fight against extremist violence and the unacceptable human toll.”
The European Union also condemned “these cowardly and barbaric attacks,” calling for “everything to be implemented to hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions.”
Today, Sunday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced on his Twitter account that he would visit Burkina Faso “this week.” “I spoke today with President (Roch Marc Christian) Kabore… I will once again express France’s solidarity during my visit this week to Burkina Faso,” he said.
The attack came in the wake of another attack late on Friday evening that targeted the village of Tadriyat in the same area, during which at least 14 people were killed, including civilians from armed groups supporting the army.
The two attacks come a week after two other attacks in the same area, killing four people, including two members of the “Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland” militia.
Between May 17 and 18, 15 villagers and soldiers were killed in two attacks on a village and a patrol in the northeast of the country, according to the governor of the Burkinabe Sahel region.
Since May 5, the number of terrorist attacks has escalated, and the armed forces have launched a large-scale operation in the North and Sahel regions. The security forces are facing difficulties in stopping the cycle of terrorist violence that has killed more than 1,400 people since 2015 and displaced more than a million others from conflict areas.