OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Islamic extremists killed at least 15 people, including children, in an attack on a group of traders traveling between towns in northern Burkina Faso, the government said Saturday.
The victims of Friday's attack in Loroum province were being escorted by a local defense group that was likely the target, according to a security report prepared for humanitarian organizations working in Burkina Faso.
Government spokesman Remis Fulgance Dandjinou said the attack was in response to increased efforts by the army to stem growing violence across the once peaceful West African country.
Nearly 2,000 people were killed last year as local defense groups and the military sought to stem the violence by militants linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.
Already deaths have increased more than 40% this year, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.
Local defense groups and government security forces have been accused of targeting the Peuhl, or Fulani, ethnic group for its perceived support of the jihadists. Friday's attack was most likely in retaliation “for targeting the Fulani people,” said Siaka Coulibaly with the Center for Public Policy Monitoring by Citizens.