OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO (AFP) - Gunmen killed a priest and five church-goers during mass on Sunday (May 12) in an attack on a Catholic church in Dablo, northern Burkina Faso, security sources and local official said.
"Towards 9am, during mass, armed individuals burst into the Catholic church," the mayor of Dablo, Mr Ousmane Zongo, told AFP.
"They started firing as the congregation tried to flee."
The gunmen managed to trap some of the worshippers, he added.
"They killed five of them. The priest, who was celebrating mass, was also killed, bringing the number of dead to six."
The attackers set fire to the church, several shops and a small cafe before heading to the local health centre, which they looted and burnt the chief nurse's vehicle, said Mr Zongo.
“There is an atmosphere of panic in the town,” said Zongo.
“People are holed up in their homes, nothing is going on. The shops and stores are closed. It’s practically a ghost town,” he added.
A security source said between 20 and 30 gunmen carried out the attack.
Security reinforcements were sent from Barsalogho, about 45 km south of Dablo, and were combing the area, a security source told AFP.
The attack came two days after French special forces freed four foreign hostages in the north of the country in an overnight raid that cost the lives of two soldiers.
The operation was ordered to free French hostages Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas who disappeared while on holiday in the remote Pendjari National Park in Benin on May 1.
The team also found two other female captives, an American woman and a South Korean.
Sunday’s church strike came two weeks after a similar attack against a Protestant church in Silgadji, also in the north, when gunmen on motorbikes killed a pastor and several worshippers.
Burkina Faso has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
Nearly 400 people have been killed since 2015 – mainly in hit-and-run raids – according to an AFP tally.
Jihadist groups target both Muslim and Christian clerics, mainly in the north.
Former colonial ruler France has deployed some 4,500 troops in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in a mission codenamed Barkhane to help local forces try to flush out jihadist groups.