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Baptism party attacked in northern Burkina Faso, killing 15

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Suspected Islamic extremists attacked a baptism party in northern Burkina Faso, killing at least 15 people and sending terrified civilians fleeing to other towns, authorities said Wednesday.

The attack took place Tuesday near the town of Tin-Akoff, according to Salfo Kabore, the governor of Sahel region. It is the fourth attack against civilians this month in the commune, according to an internal security report for aid workers.

“People are shocked and many are running,” said Moha AG Agraz, a Tin-Akoff native who has been in contact with town residents.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the internal security report viewed by The Associated Press blamed extremists linked to the Islamic State group.

Violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State extremists has left thousands dead in the West African nation over the last several years. In recent weeks, attacks have spiked in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region and in the country’s east.

Two Spanish journalists and an Irish conservationist were among more than 50 people killed during one week in April.

The violence has displaced more than 1 million people, and aid groups say it’s also brought tens of thousands to the brink of starvation by disrupting aid operations to those in need.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said earlier this month it was “deeply concerned by the humanitarian consequences” of violence that displaced more than 17,500 people in a 10-day period.

Observers expressed alarm that Tuesday’s attack took place in an area where international and regional armed forces are actively trying to stop jihadist violence.

“It shows the limits of counterterrorism strategies that fail to bring stability to these regions while armed groups continue to proliferate,” said Flore Berger, an analyst covering security in the Sahel.

Sam Mednick, The Associated Press