Unidentified assailants killed four people and destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary in northern Burkina Faso, a bishop said on Tuesday. It was the third deadly attack against Christians in the West African country in the span of two weeks.
No one has claimed responsibility for the church attacks yet, but in a statement, the government of Burkina Faso blamed “terrorist groups … attacking religion with the macabre aim of dividing us”.
The violence threatens to upend traditionally peaceful relations between Burkina Faso’s majority Muslim community and its Christians, who represent up to a quarter of the population.
Attacks by groups with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda have surged this year in Burkina Faso and across the broader Sahel region, an arid expanse of scrubland just south of the Sahara desert.
They have worked to sow ethnic tensions between farming and herding communities in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in order to boost recruitment among marginalized communities.
On Monday, the Federation of Islamic Associations of Burkina (FAIB) condemned the previous two attacks, calling in a statement for all citizens of Burkina Faso “without exception for religion or ethnicity … to unite against terrorism