Gunmen killed six people, including a priest, at a Catholic church in the northern central region of Burkina Faso on Sunday, according to a government statement and media sources.
The attack took place in the town of Dablo while congregants were leaving the church service at approximately 9 am on Sunday. According to reports, after the gunmen fired at the crowd, killing six people, they then set the church on fire and looted other shops and buildings.
“Armed individuals burst into the Catholic church and started firing as the congregation tried to flee. There is an atmosphere of panic in the town. People are holed up in their homes, nothing is going on. The shops and stores are closed. It’s practically a ghost town,” Dablo Mayor Ousmane Zondo told AFP.
In December, the Burkina Faso government declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces bordering Mali because of deadly attacks.
This is the second attack on the Christian community in two weeks. Late in April, an unidentified gunman killed a pastor and five congregants at a Protestant church, also in the north.
Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa, is facing increasing attacks as groups with links to Islamic State and Al Qaeda, based in neighboring Mali, extend their influence over the porous borders of the Sahel, south of the Sahara.
The United Nations has claimed that over 100,000 people in Burkina Faso have been displaced by unrest this year, and according to media reports over 400 hundred people have lost their lives in terror attacks over the last four years.
Around 55 percent of the Burkina Faso population is Muslim, and 25 percent Christian. However, the two groups generally live together in peace.