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Dozens killed, more than 60 wounded in attack on mine convoy in Burkina Faso

A sign is posted at the entrance of the Tambao mine in Tambao, 350 kilometres northeast of the capital, Ouagadougou on April 5, 2015, where five armed men kidnapped a Romanian mineworker the day before.
A sign is posted at the entrance of the Tambao mine in Tambao, 350 kilometres northeast of the capital, Ouagadougou on April 5, 2015, where five armed men kidnapped a Romanian mineworker the day before. Ahmed Ouoba, AFP

An attack on a convoy transporting local employees of Canadian mining company Semafo in Burkina Faso left 37 people dead and 60 wounded on Wednesday, a regional governor said.

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Saidou Sanou, the governor of Est Region, said in a statement that the ambush by "unidentified armed individuals" took place on Wednesday morning.

The attack took place between Semafo’s Fada and Boungou mine sites, about 40 kilometres from Boungou, the company said in a statement.

The five buses were being escorted by the military when they were ambushed, resulting in “several fatalities and injuries”, the company added.

Few details were immediately available.

“We are actively working with all levels of authorities to ensure the on-going safety and security of our employees, contractors and suppliers,” Semafo said, while offering condolences to the families of the victims.

The mine itself, it added, remains secured and its operations have not been affected.

Semafo operates two mines in the West African country, which is battling a jihadist revolt that has claimed hundreds of lives.

This was the third deadly attack suffered by Semafo in 15 months. Two others in August 2018 also targeted vehicles travelling to its mines, and a police vehicle was attacked on the same road between the city of Fada and the Bongou gold mine last December.

'Armed bandits'

The company blamed “armed bandits” for last year’s attacks, and subsequently reinforced its armed escorts.

Burkina Faso is an impoverished and politically fragile country in the Sahel, and its security forces are badly equipped, poorly trained and underfunded.

The country’s northern provinces have been battling a four-year-old wave of jihadist violence that came from neighbouring Mali.

The attacks – typically hit-and-run raids on villages, road mines and suicide bombings – have claimed more than 630 lives nationally, according to an AFP toll.

On Monday, an attack on a base in northern Burkina Faso killed at least five gendarmes and five civilians.

Nearly 500,000 people have also been forced to flee their homes.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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