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40 Killed This Week in Burkina Faso

Map of Burkina Faso
Map of Burkina Faso

About 40 people have been killed in a wave of attacks in Burkina Faso, in areas where jihadi attacks are rife, sources said Friday.

In the most recent violence, about 20 people were killed in a series of raids on villages in Burkina Faso's troubled north, security sources and local residents told AFP.

Armed men attacked three villages early on Thursday in the country's northern Yatenga province.

"Yesterday around 5 a.m. [local and GMT], armed groups attacked the villages of Pelle, Zanna and Nongfaire," a local resident said Friday, giving a toll of 25 people killed.

There were "many others wounded," the resident said.

Another resident said "the assailants, who came on motorbikes, were chased by volunteers [civilian auxiliaries of the army] and soldiers."

The attack was confirmed by a security source, who put the death toll at about 20, adding that search operations were underway to find the assailants.

The attackers "were hit by air support after taking refuge in the Barga forest," said another security source. "Several of them died."

Raids in east

Earlier Friday, there were reports that another 20 people had been killed in separate attacks by suspected jihadis in eastern Burkina Faso this week.

Armed men on Monday raided the village of Kaongo in the southeastern province of Koulpelogo, killing at least 11 people, including two women and children.

Two days later, the neighboring village of Bilguimdoure was targeted, "leaving around 10 dead," a local official said.

The attackers torched homes and stores in the two villages and made off with cattle, the official added.

Sources in the security forces confirmed those attacks and said that operations were underway to secure the area.

People living in the district said residents were fleeing the area, terrified of further attacks.

Koulpelogo, on Burkina's border with Togo and Ghana, has been repeatedly attacked by Islamist militants this year, despite a crackdown by the army and a volunteer civilian militia, the VDP.

Last month, at least 24 people, including 20 VDP members, were killed in two raids in the troubled region.

The impoverished landlocked Sahel state is struggling with a jihadi insurgency that swept in from neighboring Mali in 2015.

More than 10,000 civilians, troops and police have died, according to nongovernment organization estimates, while at least 2 million people have fled their homes and more than a third of the country lies outside the government's control.

Anger within the military at the mounting toll triggered two coups last year.

Doctor freed

On Friday, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said that Australian doctor Kenneth Elliott, 88, had been freed more than seven years after he and his wife were abducted in Burkina by al-Qaida-linked jihadis.

The couple had run the sole medical clinic in Djibo, a town near the border with Mali, since 1972. Elliott's spouse, Jocelyn, was released three weeks after the abduction.

Her husband returned to Australia on Thursday night, according to the Australian government.

Wong's statement said that the government and Elliott's family had "worked tirelessly" for his freedom. It gave no details about the circumstances of his release.