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Murder on altar: Six killed in Burkina Faso Catholic Church attack

A security source said between 20 and 30 gunmen carried out the attack.

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Murder on altar: Six killed in Burkina Faso Catholoc Church attack

Gunmen killed a priest and five parishioners during mass Sunday in an attack on a Catholic church in Dablo, northern Burkina Faso, security sources and a local official said.

“Towards 9:00 am, during mass, armed individuals burst into the Catholic church,” the mayor of Dablo, Ousmane Zongo, told reporters. “They started firing as the congregation tried to flee.”

The attackers -between 20 and 30 according to a security source -managed to trap some of the worshippers, Zongo added. “They killed five of them. The priest, who was celebrating mass, was also killed, bringing the number of dead to six.”

The gunmen then set fire to the church, several shops and a small cafe before heading to the local health centre, which they looted, burning the chief nurse’s vehicle. 

“There is an atmosphere of panic in the town,” said Zongo.

“People are holed up in their homes, nothing is going on. The shops and stores are closed. It’s practically a ghost town,” he added.

Security reinforcements were sent from Barsalogho, about 45 kilometres (30 miles) south of Dablo, and were combing the area, a security source told reporters. Dablo is located in the northern province of Sanmatenga.

The attack came two days after French special forces freed four foreign hostages in the north of the country in an overnight raid that cost the lives of two soldiers.

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.

The team also found two other female captives, an American woman and a South Korean.

Christian, Muslim clerics targeted –

Sunday’s church strike came two weeks after a similar attack against a Protestant church in Silgadji, also in the north, when gunmen on motorbikes killed a pastor and five worshippers. 

Burkina Faso has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

The raids began in 2015 in the north before targeting the capital Ouagadougou and other regions, notably in the east.

Nearly 400 people have been killed since 2015 -mainly in hit-and-run raids -according to an AFP tally.

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

According to security sources, the jihadists do not consider certain Muslim clerics sufficiently radical and sometimes accuse them of having collaborated with the authorities.

Religious leaders are not the only people targeted by the extremists. Last month, jihadists attacked a village school in Maitaougou, in the eastern province of Koulpelogo, killing five teachers and a municipal worker.

Former colonial ruler France has deployed 4,500 troops in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in a mission code-named Barkhane to help local forces flush out jihadist groups.

Around 4.3 million people have been driven from their homes in the worsening violence that has engulfed the entire Sahel region, including one million over the past year, according to UN humanitarian officials.

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East Africa News & Stories

Collapsed wall kills street children in Uganda

Due to a heavy downpour part of the perimeter wall of the school gave way

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Six street children who were sleeping in a storm drain next to an elite school in the Ugandan capital have been killed after a wall fell on them, police said Monday.

“Due to a heavy downpour part of the perimeter wall of the school gave way, collapsed on the kids, killing six of them on the spot and two were injured,” Kampala’s deputy police spokesman Luke Owoyesigire said. 

“The police rescue team is on the scene to check if any person is buried under the debris.”

The spokesman said police were trying to establish the identities of the children and track down their families, adding that they had been sleeping in the storm drain for a while.

According to Owoyesigire, it was the second such incident recently, after five family members were killed last month as they slept in a mud and wattle house when a wall collapsed on them.

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Thousands rally in Bamako to demand end to massacres

Ethnic tensions in the centre of the country have surged since a jihadist group led by preacher Amadou Koufa emerged in 2015.

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Thousands of Malians demonstrated in Bamako Friday to demand an end to a series of massacres in the centre of the country.

Police said 3,000 attended the rally in the capital while organisers said 5,000 turned out to urge an end to a spike in violence which has led UN peacekeepers to declare a state of alert.

Ethnic tensions in the centre of the country have surged since a jihadist group led by preacher Amadou Koufa emerged in 2015. 

The group recruit mainly from among the Fulani – primarily cattle breeders and traders – and they have clashed with the Dogon and Bambara — traditionally sedentary farmers who have formed their own self-defence militias.

There has been a swathe of mass killings this year. New Year’s Day saw 39 Fulani butchered in Koulogon, a village in the central Mopti region while 160 more were slaughtered on March 23 in Ogossagou then 35 more on June 9 in Sobane Da.

Fresh ethnic violence erupted this week leading to 41 further deaths in the ethnic Dogo villages of Gangafani and Yoro — the latest in a cycle of tit-for-tat attacks between the warring communities despite the army sending in troops.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who rejects the idea of an “inter-ethnic conflict,” on Thursday named former interim president Dioncounda Traore as high representative for the region to report back to him.

‘Too much blood’

The Red Cross, meanwhile, said Friday that some 2,800 people fleeing the violence had taken refuge in the town of Bandiagara in the east of Mopti region where aid including utensils and bedding had been distributed.

At Ouenkoro market on the border with Burkina Faso, local politician Moussa Dembele was abducted by armed men, said mayor Harouna Sankare.

He said five men blindfolded Dembele and took him across the border.

Friday’s demonstration was organised by a youth association demanding that militia be disarmed and for people to “say no to hate” whatever their ethnicity.

“Too much blood has been spilled. It has to stop or there will be no life left in the centre of Mali,” said one demonstrator, Habitatou Diallo.

UN peacekeeping chief in Mali Jean-Pierre Lacroix, visiting Mali on Friday, said in a statement “the situation has reached what one could call an alert level with the dreadful massacres of the past few weeks and days.

“We are ready to increase our efforts to support Malian efforts” to stem the unrest, he added, while stressing that “there has to be a Malian solution.”

The UN Security Council is due to examine next Thursday whether to extend the UN mission (MINUSMA) in Mali.

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Over 500 vultures die in Botswana after eating elephant carcasses

Most of the birds, 468 of them, were white-backed vultures, which are classified as critically endangered species.

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More than 500 endangered vultures died of poisoning after eating the carcasses of three elephants killed by poachers in Botswana, the government said in a statement.

A total of 537 vultures, along with two tawny eagles, were found dead at the site in the north of the African country.

The Botswanan wildlife and national parks department did not say when the dead vultures had been found or why the three elephants were laced with poison after being killed.

But poachers are known to poison carcasses to target vultures as the birds circle in the sky and help rangers to track poaching activity.

Most of the birds, 468 of them, were white-backed vultures, which are classified as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list of threatened species.

Also among the dead were 17 white-headed vultures and 28 hooded vultures — also critically endangered.

“The poisoning was believed to have been caused by lacing of three poached elephant carcasses with a poisonous chemical,” the wildlife department said.

Teams decontaminated the area and samples were taken for laboratory analysis.

Conservationists last week warned of surging elephant poaching in parts of Botswana and estimated nearly 400 were killed for their ivory tusks in 2017 and 2018.

The country recently sparked controversy by lifting its ban on hunting, saying it would help control a booming elephant population that was damaging farmers’ livelihoods.

In 2016, two lions and over 100 vultures in South Africa’s Kruger National Park died after eating a poisoned elephant carcass.

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