OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — An ambush on a convoy transporting employees of a Canadian mining company in Burkina Faso killed 37 people on Wednesday, the deadliest attack in nearly five years of jihadist violence in the West African country.
The impoverished and politically fragile country has been struggling to quell a rising jihadist revolt that has claimed hundreds of lives since early 2015.
On Wednesday morning “unidentified armed individuals” ambushed five buses carrying local employees, contractors and suppliers of the Semafo mining company, said Saidou Sanou, the governor of the country’s Est Region.
Another 60 people were wounded, he said.
The mining company said the five buses were being escorted by the military and were approximately 25 miles from the Boungou gold mine in Tapoa Province when they were ambushed.
Burkina Faso’s government said the gunmen had conducted a “complex attack,” and that security officials were searching the area.
It was the third deadly attack on Semafo, which operates two mines in Burkina Faso, in 15 months.
“We are actively working with all levels of authorities to ensure the ongoing safety and security of our employees, contractors and suppliers,” the company said in a statement.
Two separate attacks on convoys carrying Boungou mine employees in August and December last year killed 11 people.
The company blamed “armed bandits” for last year’s attacks, and subsequently reinforced its armed escorts.
Burkina Faso’s northern provinces have been battling a nearly five-year wave of jihadist violence that came from neighboring Mali.
The attacks — typically hit-and-run raids on villages, road mines and suicide bombings — have claimed nearly 700 lives across the country since early 2015. Almost 500,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.
The attacks have been claimed by a range of jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
The country’s badly equipped, poorly trained and underfunded security forces have been unable to stem the violence, which has intensified throughout 2019.
The Sahel region, including Burkina Faso’s neighbors Mali and Niger, has been afflicted by the violence despite the presence of a regional force, as well as French and American troops.
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