Rebel fighters have killed dozens of people in northern Burkina Faso, as violence spirals anew in West Africa’s Sahel region.
In an attack near the northern town of Arbinda on Wednesday, rebels killed at least 47 people, including 30 civilians, 14 soldiers, and three pro-government militiamen, state media reported.
State media reported that government troops killed 16 rebels while a security source put the number at 58.
Fighters linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL regularly carry out attacks in Burkina Faso and neighbouring Mali and Niger, killing hundreds of civilians this year alone.
Violence in the Sahel, a semi-arid band beneath the Sahara Desert, has continued to intensify despite the presence of thousands of UN, regional and Western troops and efforts by some governments to negotiate with rebel groups.
Armed men killed at least 12 soldiers last week in northwestern Burkina Faso, as well as 30 civilians, soldiers, and pro-government militiamen days before that.
In Niger, armed men on Monday killed 37 civilians, including 14 children, in an attack on a village.
The violence came as former colonial power France prepares to begin drawing down its forces in the Sahel from 5,000 to about 2,500-3,000.
The Sahel was thrown into chaos by the takeover in 2012 of northern Mali by fighters linked to al-Qaeda.
France intervened the following year to push them back. But they have regrouped and expanded their operations, and they now threaten coastal West African countries like Benin and Ivory Coast.