Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 January 2020

Ambush on mining company convoy kills 37 in Burkina Faso

Foreign employees escorted by military when gunmen attacked

Soldiers from the presidential guard patrol outside the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako  in 2015. AP
Soldiers from the presidential guard patrol outside the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako  in 2015. AP

Gunmen attacked a convoy near a Canadian mining site in Burkina Faso, killing at least 37 people and wounding 60 others, the regional governor said late Wednesday.

Montreal-based Semafo said the violence took place about 40 kilometres from its Boungou Mine in Burkina Faso's Eastern region while five buses of employees were being accompanied by a military escort.

Col. Saidou Sanou, the region's governor, gave the provisional toll in a statement, while the mining company only said that it was aware of "several fatalities and injuries."

"Boungou mine site remains secured and our operations are not affected," Semafo said in its statement. "We are actively working with all levels of authorities to ensure the ongoing safety and security of our employees, contractors and suppliers."

The area has become increasingly precarious for Semafo, which operates two gold mines in Burkina Faso. Last year, an employee and subcontractor died after a bus was targeted by bandits, according to Canadian Press.

Later that year five members of Burkina Faso's security forces were killed after being attacked near the Boungou mine.

The violence underscores the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Burkina Faso, which has been infiltrated by jihadists who have been active for years in neighboring Mali.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but suspicion fell on Islamic extremists, who have launched scores of attacks on churches and public officials across the north of Burkina Faso the last few years.

Concerted military actions by five regional countries, along with a French operation, have failed to stem the growing violence in once-peaceful Burkina Faso.

The country, which experienced its first major extremist attack in 2015, is a gateway south into coastal West Africa, and regional leaders worry the extremists could be moving into Togo and Benin.

Updated: November 11, 2019 04:22 AM