Death toll soars to 53 after attack on Burkina Faso security post

·1-min read

By Thiam Ndiaga

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Fifty-three people were killed in a weekend attack on a gendarmerie post in Burkina Faso, an updated government toll showed on Wednesday, as President Roch Kabore responded to a public outcry over the worst strike on security forces in years.

Sunday's bloodshed has provoked protests over the authorities' failure to curb a four-year Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and forced more than a million people to flee their homes.

The attack, near a gold mine in Inata, a territory in the northern Soum region, killed 49 military police officers and four civilians, a government spokesperson said, updating a previous estimate of 32 killed.

On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Burkina Faso's capital, demanding Kabore resign for failing to rein in militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State who regularly target Burkinabe forces and civilians.

In a public address on Wednesday, Kabore said he understood why some citizens were angry about the attack and the circumstances leading up to it.

The personnel stationed at the gendarmerie post had run out of food and been forced to slaughter animals in the vicinity for the past two weeks, according to a memo sent by the post's commander to his superiors last week and seen by Reuters.

"We must no longer hear about food issues in our army," Kabore said, promising an investigation. "We must put our men in conditions that allow them to counter terrorism with all the courage and determination it takes."

Two senior security service commanders have already been dismissed, according to the government spokesperson.

(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Aaron Ross, Kevin Liffey and Mark Heinrich)

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