Four people were killed in an attack on a Catholic church in northern Burkina Faso, the latest in a string of assaults on Christian places of worship in the region.
“The Christian community of Toulfe was the target of a terrorist attack gathered for Sunday prayers,” the bishop of Ouahigouya, Justin Kientega, said in a statement on Sunday. “The attack left four of the faithful dead.”
A security source told AFP news agency “heavily armed individuals attacked the church … as the faithful were celebrating Sunday mass” in the town of Toulfe, 240km northwest of the capital Ouagadougou.
“[The attack] caused panic in the village and many residents sought cover in their homes or in the bush,” a local resident said.
Last week, gunmen killed four Catholics in a religious procession, days after a priest and five others were murdered at mass.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks that threaten to upend traditionally peaceful relations between majority Muslims and Christians who make up one-quarter of the country.
The government has blamed unnamed armed groups operating in the country and Africa’s surrounding Sahel region.
Raids began in 2015 in the north before targeting Ouagadougou and other regions, notably in the east.
Nearly 400 people have been killed since 2015 – mainly in hit-and-run raids, according to an AFP tally.
Armed groups target Christian clergy as well as Muslim clerics they do not consider sufficiently conservative in a country where traditionally both religions have co-existed peaceably.
France has deployed 4,500 troops in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in a mission codenamed Barkhane to help local forces flush out fighters.
French special forces this month freed four foreign hostages in the former French colony during an overnight raid that killed two soldiers.