The impoverished Sahel state of Burkina Faso was plunged once more into mourning on Thursday after suspected jihadis killed 49 people in an attack that raised fresh doubts about its armed forces.
The national flag was lowered to half-staff for three days of mourning at the parliament, presidency and government in offices in the capital Ouagadougou, an AFP journalist said.
Several television and radio channels changed their programming, mostly broadcasting songs paying tribute to the defense and security forces.
Newspapers and online media placed a black edging of mourning around their front pages, although some raised pointed questions over the country’s security crisis.
“Over the past five years, the days have come and gone but look the same to the Burkinabe public,” online outlet Wakatsera said.
“The flags are raised and then almost immediately dropped to half-mast to mourn new dead, civilians and/or troops, in attacks by armed individuals who are usually never identified,” it said.
The landlocked country has been battered for the past six years by jihadi attacks from neighboring Mali, epicenter of a brutal insurgency that began in 2012 and has also hit Niger.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have died in the three countries, while according to United Nations figures more than 2 million people have fled their homes.
In Burkina Faso, the toll stands at more than 1,500 dead and 1.3 million displaced.
In Wednesday’s attack, 30 civilians, 15 police and four anti-jihadi defense volunteers were killed and 30 wounded near the town of Gorgadji in Burkina’s Sahel region, a security source and a government source told AFP.
The attack was in the three-border area, where the frontiers of the three countries converge and gunmen linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State roam.
The security forces killed 58 terrorists and the rest fled, according to the government.
It was the third major attack on Burkina troops in the past two weeks. The country’s armed forces are poorly equipped, ill-trained are face a highly mobile foe.
Since the start of August, more than 90 people have died in attacks in the north and northeast of the country.
“With each new attack, we say we’ve hit bottom, but then another one comes along, reminding us that there is always something worse,” said Bassirou Sedogo, a 47-year-old businessman.
“We observe national mourning, but we also wonder how an ambush against a military convoy … can leave so many casualties. If they can kill so many civilians who are under escort, that means no one anywhere in the area is safe from these killings,” he said.
The police and volunteers in the Gorgadji attack had been providing a security escort for civilians who were returning to their homes after earlier attacks, the authorities say.
Source: Voice of America