Church Attacks Plague Burkina Faso as Jihadists Switch Tactics

(Bloomberg) -- Gunmen opened fire on a religious procession in a village in northern Burkina Faso, marking the third attack on Christians in less than two weeks in the country that’s struggling to cope with a surge of Islamist militant violence.

Attacks on churches are a new phenomenon as jihadists mainly targeted soldiers and teachers in the border regions, which have become increasingly dangerous due to a spill-over of violence from neighboring Mali. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said last week that terrorists are changing their modus operandi, from stoking inter-communal conflict to trying to foment religious strife.

Four people were killed and a statue of the Virgin Mary was destroyed in the attack in Zimtenga on Monday, Bishop Paul Ouedraogo, head of the Episcopal conference, told reporters in the capital, Ouagadougou, on Tuesday. The incident comes just after gunmen burst into a Catholic church and shot six people, including a priest, during Sunday mass.

Known for its tolerance and secularism, Burkina Faso is predominantly Muslim but has a relatively large Christian population, with about 23 percent of people describing themselves as Catholic or Protestant.

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