Seven children among 14 killed in roadside bomb in Burkina Faso

Armel BAILY
Since 2015, increasingly deadly Islamist attacks in Burkina Faso have killed more than 750 people according to an AFP count (AFP Photo/MICHELE CATTANI)

Ouagadougou (AFP) - Seven children and four women were among 14 civilians killed when a roadside bomb blew up their bus in northwestern Burkina Faso, where attacks by Islamists have increasingly targeted the most vulnerable.

Nineteen more people were hurt, three of them seriously, in Saturday's blast, the communications ministry said.

Education Minister Stanislas Ouaro said the bus was using the Toeni-Tougan road, which was supposed to be closed to traffic because of the risk of attacks in the region near the border with Mali.

Ouaro said the dead were among around 160 passengers aboard three buses carrying 104 students.

The blast in Sourou province was caused by a roadside bomb, a security source told AFP.

The regional governor had warned the central government of the landlocked West African country on Thursday of the risks of attacks on the road, Ouaro said.

He said the drivers of the three buses had ignored "strict instructions" to wait until operations to secure the road were completed.

However, a young survivor of the tragedy said the travellers "didn't know there was any danger."

The youth, who declined to give his name, added: "It was only later that we learned the security forces had asked for time to secure the road and set up an escort."

No group claimed responsibility for planting the bomb, but jihadist violence in Burkina Faso has been blamed on militants linked to both Al-Qaeda and Islamic State groups.

Meanwhile, the army reported an assault against gendarmes at Inata in the north on Friday, saying "a dozen terrorists" had been killed.

- December 24 massacre -

The deaths came after 35 people, most of them women, died in a massacre on December 24 in the northern city of Arbinda and seven Burkinabe troops were killed in a raid on their army base nearby.

The Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP) said it had attacked the military base but made no mention of the Arbinda massacre.

Burkina Faso, bordering Mali and Niger, has seen frequent jihadist attacks which have left hundreds of people dead since the start of 2015 when Islamist extremist violence began to spread across the Sahel region.

The attacks have increasingly targeted the most vulnerable, said Paul Koalaga, a Burkinabe security expert. "They attacked places of worship, then women and now children. These spectacular acts amplify the fears."

In a televised address on Tuesday, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore insisted that "victory" against "terrorism" was assured.

Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad have joined forces to fight a jihadist insurgency with help from Western countries in the fragile region lying between the Sahara and the Atlantic.

Increasingly deadly Islamist attacks in Burkina have claimed more than 750 lives since 2015, according to an AFP count, and forced 560,000 people from their homes, UN figures show.