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At least 37 dead in attack on Canadian mining convoy in Burkina Faso

At least 37 civilians are dead and more than 60 are wounded after gunmen attacked a convoy of local employees working for the Canadian gold mining company Semafo in Burkina Faso on Wednesday morning. 

Five buses and a military escort were ambushed approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) from a gold mine in Boungou in the eastern part of the country.

Read more: Investigating DR Congo’s illegal gold trade

Local sources said the attack began when an improvised explosive device struck a military vehicle in the convoy. Unidentified gunmen opened fire shortly after. 

Deadliest attack in recent history

The convoy suffered “several fatalities and injuries”, the company said in a statement, adding that operations at the mine were not affected. The death toll, which thus far does not include security personnel, is expected to mount. It is already the deadliest attack in nearly five years of jihadist violence in the country. 

Governor of the Est region Saidou Sanou condemned the attack as “barbarous and cowardly”.

Pattern of violence

It is the third such attack on the Montreal-based company, who runs two mines in the West African country, in Burkina Faso in the last 15 months. Vehicles on their way to the mines were victims of a similar deadly attack in August last year, while a police vehicle was targeted on the same road in December. 

Jihadist violence has plagued Burkina Faso in recent years. The northern part of the country has served as a haven for Islamist extremist who cross the border from Mali. More than 630 people in the country have died in regular attacks that include raids on villages, road mines and suicide bombings. Past instances of violence have been claimed by various jihadist groups, like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. 

Read more: Attacks in Burkina Faso — a simmering Islamist conflict

Until the Wednesday ambush, the country’s deadliest attack had occurred at a hotel in the capital Ouagadougou in January 2016. Jihadists killed 30 people, half of them foreign nationals. 

The country is among the world’s poorest nations, with poorly equipped security forces and a fragile political system that have been unable to rein in the violence. 

kp/se (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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