ROME — Pope Francis offered prayers Sunday for the victims of a presumed Islamist slaughter of some 160 civilians in the west African nation of Burkina Faso.
“I wish to assure my prayers for the victims of the bloodshed committed the night between Friday and Saturday in a town of Burkina Faso,” the pontiff told the thousands of faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for his weekly Angelus prayer.
“I am close to the family members and to the entire Burkinabé population that is suffering a great deal due to these repeated attacks,” the pope continued. “Africa needs peace and not violence!”
The pope’s outcry joined that of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said he was “outraged” over the massacre — the worst case of Islamist violence in the nation’s history — according to his spokesman.
Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore also condemned the massacre in the town of Solhan as “barbaric” and “despicable,” insisting that we must “remain united and solid against these obscurantist forces.”
The government attributed the massacre to “terrorists,” a term understood to mean jihadists.
Local sources said they have recovered a 160 bodies from three mass graves in Solhan, a town in the region near the borders of Mali and Niger.
“It’s the local people themselves who have started exhuming the bodies and burying them after transporting them,” one said.
Colonel Assimi Goita of neighboring Mali, who will be sworn into office Monday as transitional president following his second coup in nine months, said he “strongly condemned this cowardly and hateful attack” in a message Sunday to President Kabore.