Militants kill at least 40 in north Burkina Faso attack on Sunday -U.N

DAKAR (Reuters) – Islamist jihadist militants killed at least 40 civilians during an attack in northern Burkina Faso over the weekend, the United Nations’ Human Rights Office said.

The latest reported assault in an area rife with jihadist activity took place on Sunday in the town of Djibo, where many displaced people have sought refuge.

Fighters from an al Qaeda-linked group attacked a military bases, houses and a displaced people’s camp, the U.N. Human Rights Office regional spokesperson Seif Magango said in a statement on Tuesday.

The attackers killed at least 40 civilians, injured over 42, set fire to three shelters for displaced people and 20 shops, the statement said.

The military junta that seized power in Burkina Faso last year has not directly commented on the attack.

The country’s national news agency reported the assault on Monday but did not mention civilian casualties. It said the assailants had been pushed back and Djibo reclaimed.

Burkina Faso is one of several West African nations battling an insurgency that took root in Mali in 2012 and has since spread to the Sahel region south of the Sahara.

Groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have seized vast swathes of territory over the past decade, killing thousands and displacing over six million in the process.

The violence has more recently spread to the north of coastal countries despite local and international military efforts to stop it.

A string of military coups in Burkina Faso and its neighbours Niger and Mali among others over the past three years has added instability.

At least 70 civilians were killed, mainly elderly people and children, in an attack on a village in northern Burkina Faso earlier this month.

(Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Alistair Bell)