A Protestant church in the western African nation of Burkina Faso was targeted by militants in an attack on Sunday, April 28, 2019. The pastor of the church and two of his sons are believed to be among the six people killed in the attack.
“The attackers were on motorbikes. They fired in the air before aiming at the members of the congregation,” a witness told Agence France-Presse.
This Is the First Such Attack on a Church
According to government spokesman Remy Fulgance Dandjinou, this is the first attack of this kind on a church in the country. While militants have targeted mosques and religious leaders in the violence that has been escalating since 2015, this is the first time the militants have carried out an attack on a church.
In December, the government declared a state of emergency in several of the northern provinces of the country, which border Mali, due to such attacks. This most recent attack took place in a small northern town called Silgadji.
Pastor Pierre Ouedraogo was bringing the Sunday service to a conclusion when gunmen arrived on motorbikes. It was around 1:00 p.m. local time.
But This Is Not the First Time a Religious Leader Has Been Targeted
Since 2015, the northern provinces of Burkina Faso have seen increasing violence from militants; many of these raids target Muslim and Christian leaders. A Spanish Catholic priest was killed in February and in March, another Catholic priest was abducted. His whereabouts are still unknown.
Last year, an Assemblies of God pastor and members of his family were abducted and held for four days before being released.
Imams have also been the target of violence. As TRTWorld explains, “the militants do not consider these Muslim clerics sufficiently radical and sometimes accuse them of having collaborated with the authorities.”
While it has not been confirmed yet who is responsible for Sunday’s church attack, TRTWorld reports that most of the attacks that have taken place in Burkina Faso since 2015 have been at the hands of the group Ansarul Islam, which has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda. This group is believed to be responsible for 270 deaths in the country so far.