Eleven soldiers dead, dozens of civilians missing following attack on convoy in northern Burkina Faso

Eleven soldiers have been found dead and about 50 civilians are missing after an attack by Islamist militants on a 150-vehicle convoy taking supplies to a town in northern Burkina Faso on Monday, the government said on Tuesday.

Twenty-eight people were wounded in the attack, including 20 soldiers, said the statement by government spokesman Lionel Bilgo. The army had said in a previous statement that dozens of trucks were destroyed.

The assault took place in the commune of Gaskinde in Soum province, where jihadists linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have escalated attacks and seized territory since 2015.

Militants have blockaded several areas, so government convoys and air drops have delivered essential goods to trapped civilians.

The convoy, which was under military escort, was carrying supplies to the town of Djibo, just over 20 km (12 miles) away from Gaskinde.

A video shared online showed people scrambling to retrieve goods from at least a dozen blazing trucks and a plume of smoke stretching across the scrubland.

Another video showed crowds welcoming vehicles from the convoy that had survived the attack and made it to Djibo.

Separately, suspected militants set fire to the mayor’s office and kidnapped one person in the town of Boni on Monday night, two local residents and a military source said.

Boni is on the N1 highway connecting capital Ouagadougou to the southwestern city of Bobo-Dioulasso, and is much further south than most militant activity has taken place. It is about 16 km (10 miles) from Hounde, where there are gold mining operations.

Insecurity has risen across West Africa’s Sahel over the past decade as an Islamist insurgency that took root in Mali has spread. Thousands have been killed and more than two million displaced despite the presence of foreign troops and United Nations peacekeepers.

Insurgents have mined roads, besieged towns, destroyed water facilities and undermined efforts to resupply Burkina Faso’s increasingly isolated north and east.

At least 35 civilians were killed on September 6 when a vehicle in a convoy hit a roadside bomb between the northern towns of Djibo and Bourzanga.

Frustrations about spiralling violence spurred a military coup against Burkina Faso’s ex-president Roch Kabore in January. But the ruling military junta has also struggled to thwart attacks.

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