Up to 20 gunmen have attacked a church in Burkina Faso, killing 24 people, including a church pastor.
The attack took place on Sunday during a weekly service, in the town of Pansi in Yagha province in the north of the country, where men were separated from women by the attackers. At least 18 others were reported to have been injured, with three people kidnapped.
Col. Salfo Kabore, the regional governor, told AFP that a group of “armed terrorists” attacked a Protestant church in the border village of Pansi in the Yagha province during worship services on Sunday.
Kabore said that gunmen “attacked the peaceful local population, after having identified them and separated them from non-residents.”
“The provisional toll is 24 killed, including the pastor… 18 wounded and individuals who were kidnapped,” Kabore said.
In a neighboring community, a deacon, a pastor, and the pastor’s family were also killed by abductors over the weekend.
The mayor of Boundore commune, Sihanri Osangola Brigadie, told ABC News that about 20 gunmen had attacked the church. Brigadie visited some of the victims at a hospital located about 110 miles from the attack.
“It hurt me when I saw the people,” Brigadie said after visiting some of the victims in the hospital in Dori town, 180 kilometers (110 miles) from the attack. The gunmen looted oil and rice from shops and forced the three youth they kidnapped to help transport it on their motorbikes, he said.
Both Christians and Muslims were killed before the church was set on fire, said a government security official in Dori who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media.
Additionally, the gunmen were said to have kidnapped three minors and forced the youth to help transport oil and rice raided from the town shops.
A resident of Sebba, a nearby town to Pansi, told AFP that fleeing villagers fled to Sebba for safety.
Attacks have targeted religious leaders in the area in the past. Last week, also in Yagha province, a retired pastor was killed and another pastor was abducted by gunmen, according to an internal security report for aid workers seen by The Associated Press.
The attack comes as over 4,000 were killed by Islamic extremist attacks in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali in 2019, according to the United Nations envoy for West Africa and the Sahel Mohamed Ibn Chambas.
Burkina Faso ranked 28th on Christian Watchdog Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.