Pope Francis is praying for the victims of the recent attack on a Catholic church in Burkina Faso, the interim head of the Holy See press office has said.
“The Holy Father learned with sorrow the news of the attack on the church in Dablo, in #BurkinaFaso. He prays for the victims, for their families and for the whole Christian community of the country,” Alessandro Gisotti wrote on Twitter on May 13.
A group of gunmen burned down a Catholic Church during Sunday Mass and killed at least six people, including a priest, in the west African nation of Burkina Faso on May 12.
The attackers reportedly burst into the church, located in the northern town of Dablo, and started shooting at the beginning of Mass, around 9am local time. Mass celebrant Fr Simeon Yampa was among those killed in the attack.
France 24 cited a security source who said there were “some 20 to 30 armed men” involved in the attack. The gunmen are as yet unidentified.
A government official told the BBC that the militants also set fire to a nearby shops and a health centre. Dablo’s Mayor, Ousmane Zongo, said the town is “filled with panic” and that citizens are “holed up at home”.
The people of Burkina Faso have suffered an increasing number of terrorist attacks in recent years from Islamic jihadist groups including al-Qaeda affiliates. Authorities said five teachers were shot to death in a separate attack last week.
The government in Burkina Faso declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces last December because of deadly Islamist attacks, including in the region where the assault on Sunday took place, Reuters reports.
Sunday’s attack is the second on a Catholic church in the area this year; four died after an attack on a church in a nearby village in April. In addition, attackers targeted a Protestant church during the same month, killing six including the priest.
Last week, two French soldiers died during a successful attempt to rescue two Frenchmen, an American and a South Korean who had been kidnapped and were being held in that very region.
Before giving his Easter blessing urbi et orbi (to the city and the world) on April 21, Pope Francis prayed for peace in several countries in the African continent, including Burkina Faso, which he said are “still rife with social tensions, conflicts and at times violent forms of extremism that leave in their wake insecurity, destruction and death”.
In 2017, Francis also offered prayers for the people of the country after gunmen opened fire in a Turkish restaurant in the capital Ouagadougou, killing at least 18 people and taking hostages before police ended the standoff.