By Thiam Ndiaga
OUAGADOUGOU – The death toll from an attack on civilians and the military in northern Burkina Faso has risen to 80 people, the government said in a statement on Thursday.
The attack occurred on Wednesday when Islamist militants raided a civilian convoy that was being escorted by military police near the town of Arbinda, the latest in a spate of attacks across West Africa’s Sahel region this month.
Fifty-nine civilians, six pro-government militiamen and 15 military police were killed, the government and the military said on Thursday. The initial death toll was put at 47 on Wednesday.
Security forces said 80 militants were also killed.
Violence in the Sahel, a band of arid land that borders the south edge of the Sahara Desert, has intensified in recent years despite the presence of thousands of U.N., regional and Western troops.
The violence, centered on the borderlands of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, has killed thousands of civilians and displaced millions since 2018.
On Monday, armed men killed 37 civilians, including 14 children, in an attack on a village in Niger. An attack in central Mali on Thursday killed 15 soldiers.
The Sahel was thrown into chaos by the takeover in 2012 of northern Mali by militants linked to al Qaeda.
France intervened the following year to push them back. But armed Islamists have regrouped and expanded their operations, making large areas of the Sahel ungovernable.