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Burkina Faso: no peace in sight

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Women and children were the targets of the most recent terrorist attacks in northern Burkina Faso. Some 35 civilians were killed during a first attack on Christmas Eve in Arbinda, in the Soum province of the Sahel region; nearly all of the victims were women. A second attack, on 4 January 2020, on a school bus convoy in the Sourou province in the Boucle du Mouhoun, killed 14 people, including seven school children. “Whenever a Burkinabe is killed because of a terrorist act, we feel it with the same pain that every mother, every father, every person feels when they lose a loved one,” Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré said in a statement. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Several attacks were previously attributed to the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM). Due to civil unrest, nearly half a million Burkinabe people have left their homes to move further south, mostly to the Central-North region. The large number of displaced people is placing additional pressure on the already fragile livelihoods of host communities. Some 1.2 million Burkinabe people currently face a food crisis situation and many areas in the country’s north remain inaccessible to humanitarian assistance. Moreover, some 1 200 schools have been closed in the three northern regions. Since 2017, the government of Burkina Faso has been implementing an emergency plan for its Sahel region targeting four provinces (Oudalan, Séno, Soum and Yagha). It has also scaled up its military response. However, despite national, regional and international efforts to counter the terrorism threat, the frequency of the attacks has been increasing. Since April 2019, jihadist attacks have killed more than 250 civilians in Burkina Faso.