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Jihadists kill 17 civilians in raid north of Burkina Faso, says defence minister

Issouf Sanogo, AFP| An Austrian army instructor (L) works with Burkina Faso soldiers during training on April 13, 2018 at the Kamboinsé general Bila Zagre militairy camp near Ouagadougo in Burkina Faso during a military anti-terrorism exercise.

Jihadist fighters killed 17 civilians in a night-time raid on a village in the troubled north of Burkina Faso, Defence Minister Cheriff Sy said Wednesday.

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"An armed terrorist group carried out an attack against the civil population in the village of Belehede" overnight Tuesday, Sy said. "The attack caused 17 deaths," he added in a statement.

A "massive" military operation is underway to find the attackers and secure the area, Sy added, calling on the population to be extra vigilant and report any suspicious activity.

Burkina Faso has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

The Burkina Faso church attacks of May 2019

The raids began in 2015 in the north before targeting the capital Ouagadougou and other regions, notably in the east.

In April, 62 people were killed in jihadist attacks and ensuing ethnic clashes, and four people travelling by car were ambushed and killed.

More than 400 people have been killed since 2015 -- mainly in hit-and-run raids -- according to an AFP tally.

Hundreds of schools in the north of the country have had to close after teachers began fleeing the region when they became targets.

Some Westerners have been taken hostage and in some cases killed.

Former colonial ruler France has deployed 4,500 troops in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in a mission codenamed Barkhane to help local forces flush out jihadists.

Burkina Faso has also joined four other Sahel nations (Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) in an initiative aimed at creating a joint 5,000-troop anti-terror force, also backed by France.

(AFP)

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