OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Burkina Faso’s prime minister said Thursday that the nation is in shock after gunmen ambushed a convoy traveling near a Canadian-owned gold mine, killing at least 37 people in what is believed to be the deadliest attack since Islamic extremists became active in the country in 2015.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility 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.
Prime Minister Christophe Dabire tweeted Thursday that Burkina Faso is still reeling from the news of the attack, and he sent his condolences to the families of those killed.
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 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 writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.