Armed groups have displaced some 17,500 people in Burkina Faso in recent days, according to UNHCR, in an attempt to cause “chaos”.
More than 17,500 people in Burkina Faso have been forcibly displaced from their homes in the last ten days due to a series of attacks by unidentified armed groups that have killed 45 people, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
Attacks by al-Qaeda-linked armed groups and the Islamic State in the Sahel region of West Africa have risen sharply since the beginning of the year, especially in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, with civilians in charge.
A UNHCR statement said on Friday that gunmen had committed a series of attacks in three different regions, burning houses and shooting at civilians. The assailants also looted health centers and damaged homes and shops.
“Clearly, one of the reasons is to cause chaos and torment civilians,” UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told a briefing in Geneva.
The security situation in the Sahel region is fueling one of the fastest growing displacement crises in the world, he said.
Security sources told Reuters on Monday that armed assailants had killed about 30 people in an attack on a village in eastern Burkina Faso.
Last week there were two Spanish journalists and an Irish citizen killed in an ambush by alleged rebels during a poaching patrol near a nature reserve in eastern Burkina Faso.
“The trends we see only point to the presence of more violence,” Cheshirkov said.
Burkina Faso’s ill-equipped army has struggled to contain the spread of violence.
Last year the government enlisted the help of volunteer militiamen to help the army, but they have been retaliated against by the rebels who attack them and the communities they help.
Armed groups have pushed for religious and ethnic tensions between the agricultural and livestock communities of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger to boost recruitment among marginalized communities.
The worsening violence in the wider Sahel region has led to one of the world’s most acute humanitarian crises, UN agencies reported last week.
Violence in Burkina Faso has displaced more than 1.14 million people in just over two years, while the arid and poor country also hosts some 20,000 refugees from neighboring Mali seeking to protect themselves from violence.