OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Burkina Faso’s president vowed Thursday that security forces will hunt down “terrorists and all their accomplices,” a day after at least 37 people were killed in the West African nation when gunmen attacked a convoy carrying employees of a Canadian mining company.
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore also called for volunteers “to defend the homeland in the areas under threat” following what is believed to be the deadliest attack in Burkina Faso since Islamic extremists became active in the country in 2015.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s ambush but the high death toll and targeting of a foreign company’s employees suggest that well-armed jihadists carried out the assault. At least 60 other people were wounded in the ambush, according to regional governor Col. Saidou Sanou.
Wednesday’s attack happened in eastern Burkina Faso, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Boungou mine, which is owned Canada’s Semafo company. The gunmen attacked a convoy of five buses carrying mine employees that was accompanied by a military escort.
Images broadcast on state-run television showed a charter bus with windows completely missing after the hail of gunfire.
The ambush underscores the deteriorating security situation in Burkina Faso, which observers say has increasingly become a refuge for jihadists from neighboring Mali and Niger.
Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, was hit by extremist violence for the first time in January 2016. At least 30 people were killed after the militants targeted a cafe popular with foreigners. Then in August 2017, 18 people were killed in an attack on a Turkish restaurant in the capital.
Jihadists have attacked police stations and churches across the north but also have focused on foreign business interests. In January, a Canadian man was kidnapped during a night raid on a mining site near the Niger border. His bullet-riddled body was found a day later.
Associated Press writers Baba Ahmed in Bamako, Mali and Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.