Lome, Togo – Seven children have been killed in a blast at Margba, a village in Tone Prefecture, in Savanes, the northernmost region of the country, which has been under a state of emergency since last June.
In a statement, the Togolese army said Sunday’s blast caused the death of seven children and caused injuries to two others but did not give other details. The victims were between the ages of 14 and 18, a medical source at the regional hospital in Dapaong, told Reuters anonymously.
“An investigation is opened to clarify the circumstances of this explosion and identify the perpetrators,” the statement added.
The youngsters were returning home at night from celebrations of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha.
There are concerns among the local population that the blast may be the work of armed groups which are gradually snaking into the country from neighbouring Burkina Faso, which has become the epicentre of conflict in the Sahel.
Since June 13, the Savanes region has been under state of emergency since June 13 following a decree signed by President Faure Gnassingbe following a deadly attack against the Togolese army.
“The decision was taken after the two terrorist attacks perpetrated in this northern part of the country in the space of six months (November 10-11, 2021 and May 10-11, 2022) against the Operation Koundjoare,” a statement from President Faure Gnassingbe’s government official website said.
The statement also said the decision was necessary “to facilitate a better delivery of public services and defense and security forces,” the statement added.
Authorities in Togo established Operation Koundjoare, a military outpost at Koundjoare as part of efforts to thwart potential moves by armed groups in Burkina Faso to sneak into the country.
In the May attack, eight soldiers were killed and 13 others wounded at a security outpost in the locality of Kpendjal in the Savanes region by unknown gunmen.
Last November, security forces repelled a similar attack by unidentified armed men that the government believed came from Burkina Faso.
Since the May attack and the announcement of the state of emergency, the army has further ramped up its presence in the region and called on the population for collaboration in a bid to overcome the rising insecurity.
Experts in the region have called for close attention from both state leaders and local communities, as more incidents pop up.
“The security situation in the subregion is very dire,” said Vladimir Antwi-Danso, the director of academic affairs at the Ghana Armed Forces Command & Staff College (GAFCSC) in Accra. “We are not aware of the latest incident but the region is grappling with terror threats. Togo, Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso must be very careful and issue control of their territories,” he says.
“Countries must sensitise [the] population to be more security-conscious,” he added.
Eugene Atigan, the leader of Comité International le Super Cabaret (CIS-Cab), a Togolese civil society group, said the fact that the event happened during the Eid al-Adha celebrations and to children, is proof that the entire population is in danger.
“We cry for the poor and innocent children who fell,” he added.