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Over 60 civilians killed in Burkina Faso communal clashes

This picture taken on March 19, 2019 shows a man riding a bicycle in front of a sign of the ministry of justice in Ouagadougou.
This picture taken on March 19, 2019 shows a man riding a bicycle in front of a sign of the ministry of justice in Ouagadougou. OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT/AFP/Getty Images
More than 60 civilians have been killed in tit-for-tat clashes between communities in northern Burkina Faso in recent days, the government said on Wednesday, the latest in a bout of inter-communal violence afflicting West Africa’s Sahel region.Burkina and neighbouring Mali have seen a spike in ethnic clashes fuelled by Islamist militants as they seek to extend their influence over the Sahel, an arid region between Africa’s northern Sahara desert and its southern savannas.Islamist attacks have risen in recent months, and the violence has reignited long-standing tensions between communities as certain groups are blamed for collaborating with the jihadists.READ MORE: Burkina Faso army kills 146 jihadists as Islamic extremist attacks grow in areaNew violence arose near the town of Arbinda in Burkina’s Soum province on Sunday night, when a religious leader and six of his family members were killed by unidentified armed men, the ruling Movement of People for Progress (MPP) party said in a statement on Wednesday.“On the morning of April 1st, reprisal acts were reported in the Arbinda Department. They were directed against a community following the assassination of a religious leader,” said MPP spokesman Bindi Ouoba.The MPP statement said a royal family was also attacked in neighbouring Boulgou province on Sunday night, leaving at least nine dead.Territorial Administration Minister Simeon Sawadogo said on state TV late on Wednesday that 62 people died in the Arbinda attack.“Thirty deaths were the result of inter-communal conflicts, and 32 people were killed by terrorists,” said Sawadogo, adding that militants had taken nine hostages.WATCH: Kidnapped Canadian found dead in Burkina Faso
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Deteriorating security prompted the government to declare a state of emergency in several northern provinces bordering Mali in December, which was extended by six months after jihadists attacked civilians in Soum.Burkina Faso, which had previously been known for its stability in a troubled region, has suffered 499 deaths from attacks on civilians between November 2018 and March 23 – a more than 7,000 percent jump from the same period a year earlier.

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