6 killed in gunman attack on Catholic church in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso gendarmes and army forces

Several gunman burst into a Catholic Church Sunday morning in north-central Burkina Faso, killing six, including the church's priest as he celebrated Mass.

A priest was among those killed in the church attack.

Congregants were leaving church around 9 a.m. (0900 GMT) when about twenty men encircled them and shot six dead, Boucary Zongo, mayor of the northern town of Dablo where the attack took place, and a witness, told Reuters.

"They burned down the church, then shops and a small restaurant before going to the health centre where they searched the premises and set fire to the head nurse's vehicle", Mr. Zongo said. "It's practically a ghost town".

Guterres urged the religious communities in Burkina Faso to "stand firmly with one another across communities and not to succumb to efforts to sow discord and breed further violence".

Burkina Faso has been beset by a rise in attacks in 2019 as groups with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda based in neighbouring Mali seek to fuel local tensions and extend their influence over the porous borders of the Sahel, the arid scrubland south of the Sahara.

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned Sunday's attack and offered condolences as he cited "the sanctity of all places of worship", according to a UN spokesman.

The operation was ordered to free French hostages Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas who disappeared while on holiday in the remote Pendjari National Park in Benin on May 1.

Jihadist groups target both Muslim and Christian clerics, mainly in the north.

But violence has only worsened since.

Germany will give an additional €20 million to Burkina Faso and over €35 million to Niger ($22.4 million and $39 million, respectively) to support development projects as well as the outfitting and training of police officers in each country, she said.

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