Several feared dead, trucks destroyed in Burkina Faso convoy attack


OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Several people are feared dead in an attack by Islamist militants on a 150-vehicle convoy taking supplies to a town in northern Burkina Faso on Monday, the army said.

Dozens of trucks were destroyed, an army statement said.

The assault took place in the commune of Gaskinde in Soum province, an area where jihadists linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have escalated attacks and seized territory since 2015.

Militants have blockaded several areas, forcing the government to resort to convoys and air drops to deliver essential goods to trapped civilians.

The convoy, which was under military escort, was carrying supplies to the town of Djibo, just over 20 km (12 miles) away from Gaskinde.

A video shared online showed people scrambling to retrieve goods from at least a dozen blazing trucks and a plume of smoke stretching across the scrubland.

Another video showed crowds welcoming vehicles from the convoy that had survived the attack and made it to Djibo.

Reuters has not been able to verify the footage.

Insecurity has risen across West Africa's Sahel over the past decade as an Islamist insurgency that took root in Mali has gained ground. Thousands of people have been killed and more than two million displaced despite the presence of foreign troops and United Nations peacekeepers.

Insurgents have mined roads, besieged towns, destroyed water facilities and undermined efforts to resupply Burkina Faso's increasingly isolated north and east.

At least 35 civilians were killed on Sept. 6 when a vehicle in a convoy hit a roadside bomb between the northern towns of Djibo and Bourzanga.

Frustrations about spiralling violence spurred a military coup against Burkina Faso's ex-president Roch Kabore in January. But the ruling military junta has also struggled to thwart attacks.

(Reporting by Anne Mimault and Thiam Ndiaga, Writing by Sofia Christensen, Editing by Bate Felix and Angus MacSwan)

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