At least five Christian men and 30 others were reportedly killed during a spate of recent attacks in northern Burkina Faso, a region plagued by Islamic extremist violence in recent years.
A source told the interdenominational aid charity Barnabus Fund, an England-based nonprofit assisting the persecuted Church worldwide, that a total of 35 people were killed late last month during a series of attacks in the Bam Province.
However, it is unclear as to who is responsible.
The unnamed source said that attacks began on Sept. 21 when assaults on three villages resulted in the murders of nine people.
Two days later, nine more were allegedly killed — including the five Christian men from the same family — in attacks on the Bourzanga district’s Pissele and Boulkiba villages.
Then again on Sept. 28, 10 people were said to have been killed in the village of Komsilga. The death count in Komsilga includes a person who was kidnapped and later found dead.
Later in the evening of Sept. 28, seven more were reportedly killed during attacks on the villages of Deneon, Singa and Norde.
Although Burkina Faso had been known for years as a relatively peaceful country, a rise in violent attacks carried out by Islamic extremist factions in Burkina Faso has taken place since 2016.
According to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, there were 137 violent events that occurred in Burkina Faso in 2018 leading to 149 fatalities. But by mid-2019 those numbers had already been exceeded as the center recorded at least 191 episodes of violence and 324 fatalities by the end of July.
Three terrorist groups have been most active in Northern Burkina Faso. Those include the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, the Macina Liberation Front, and Ansaroul Islam.
The rise in violence has caused hundreds of thousands to flee from their homes and villages.
According to the source who spoke with Barnabas Fund in the Bam Province, at least 19,000 have fled the area to the provincial capital Koungoussi.
The United Nations reported last month, that as many as 1.5 million people in Burkina Faso are in need of humanitarian assistance as over 289,000 people have been displaced. Most of the nearly 300,000 people who fled the violence in Burkina Faso were displaced in 2019.
According to the U.N., an average of 30,000 people have been displaced from their homes each month since the beginning of 2019.
While extremist attacks in Burkina Faso have not exclusively targeted Christians, Christians in the area believe they are being targeted.
Last month, the Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need reported on an ultimatum that was said to have been issued by Islamic extremists to Christian villagers in Loroum villages of Hitté and Rounga.
A local source claimed that the villagers were ordered to leave their homes within three days or convert to Islam. As a result, over 2,000 people have fled from those two villages alone.
“They are by no means the only ones facing this situation,” the source was quoted as saying at the time. “[R]ather, they are just part of a program by the jihadists who are deliberately sowing terror, assassinating members of the Christian communities and forcing the remaining Christians to flee after warning them that they will return in three days’ time — and that they do not wish to find any Christians or catechumens still there.”
A source from the town of Arbinda told Barnabas Fund earlier this year that there were no more Christians left in that town after attacks by an extremist outfit.
“It's proven that they were looking for Christians,” the source claimed. “Families who hide Christians are killed. Arbinda had now lost a total of no less than 100 people within six months.”
On June 27, an attack reportedly occurred in the northern Diocese of Ouahigouya in which four villagers wearing crucifixes were reportedly killed for being Christian.
The president of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, Bishop Laurent Dabiré, voiced concern in August that if the international community does not help stop the jihadi violence, “the result will be the elimination of the Christian presence in this area and quite possibly, in future, from the entire country.”