At least 50 people have died in an attack by armed men on a village in northern Burkina Faso, a government spokesman said.
The attackers struck overnight between Saturday and Sunday in Seytenga commune, part of Seno province, which lies in borderlands where fighters linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) are embroiled in an armed uprising.
“The army has so far found 50 bodies” after the village of Seytenga was attacked overnight Saturday, spokesman Lionel Bilgo said on Monday, adding that the death toll “may rise”.
There were differing accounts of the death toll. A security official told Reuters news agency on Monday at least 100 people had died, while a local source who did not wish to be named told the agency some 165 people had been killed.
The United Nations condemned the attack, which it said had “claimed many victims”, and called on authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The European Union also condemned the incident, calling for “light to be shed on the circumstances of this killing”.
“The method used by the terrorist group that carried out the attack, namely the systematic execution of anyone they encountered in the village, is appalling”, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on Monday.
Seytenga was the site of bloody fighting last week between rebels and government forces.
Eleven police were killed on Thursday, prompting a military operation that the army said led to the deaths of about 40 rebel fighters.
“The bloodshed was caused by reprisals to the army’s actions,” government spokesman Bilgo said.
“The country has been hit but the army is doing its job.”
Humanitarian organisations in the region said about 3,000 people were being housed in neighbouring towns after fleeing from the village.
The attack is one of the bloodiest since a military coup in January, when colonels in the national army – angered at the failure of officials to defeat the armed groups – ousted the country’s elected president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore.
The country’s new strongman, Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, immediately vowed to make security his key priority.
After a relative lull in fighting following the coup, attacks have resumed, with hundreds of civilian and military casualties over the past three months. Attacks have been concentrated in the country’s north and east.
The landlocked Sahel state is in the grip of a seven-year-old armed uprising that has claimed more than 2,000 lives and forced some 1.9 million people to flee their homes in Burkina Faso since 2015.