Far from the public eye, jihadist forces have struck with little reaction from the American press. More than 160 civilians were murdered in a terrorist strike on two Burkina Faso villages this month. Another 40 individuals or more were injured in the attacks, which mark the deadliest episode of Islamic jihadism in the country in several years.
The attacks were concentrated in two villages, Tadayrat and Solhan, located in the northeastern part of the country. Most of the destruction and loss of life occurred in Solhan. The region around these two villages is described as majority Muslim and may have been targeted because of a civilian defense force garrison that was stationed in the city. Additionally, the vicinity around Solhan is a gold mining district, which may have been an economic motivation behind the attack.
Mass graves have already been dug in Solhan, leading many to speculate whether the actual number of dead is much higher than what has been reported. Twenty or more children were among the victims of the attack.
Burkina Faso, a sub-Saharan African nation, has been the site of a growing conflict between terrorist groups and government forces that have affected the Sahel since 2015. More than one million Burkinabe have been displaced because of the violence, which has also affected neighboring Mali and Niger, and several thousand have been killed. The insurgency in this part of the world is closely linked to other Islamic terrorism efforts in North Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere.
Survivors describe the killing as indiscriminate, as the terrorists targeted any individual they could find in the village, including women and children. It has been reported that the attackers burned the local hospital, as well as homes and the village market. No terrorist group has claimed credit for this attack.
The violence mounting in Africa poses a threat to all, including religious believers. Christians and others have been targeted by Islamic violence, often paying with their lives. Last year, a gunman opened fire in a Burkina Faso church and killed 24 people, including a pastor, during the Sunday service. In Nigeria, thousands of Christians have been brutally killed by Islamic extremists in the last few years.
Like nowhere else in the world, violence in Africa proves that religious freedom and national security concerns overlap. As such, the United States and international allies should take every feasible measure to bring security and religious freedom to the continent. Securing religious freedom and pluralism should be prioritized in United States foreign policy concerning Africa.
Christians around the world ought to keep the victims of these heinous attacks in their prayers, as we recognize the tragic human cost of this widespread terrorism is allowed to continue unabated.