At least 12 people, most of them civilian volunteers supporting the armed forces, have been killed in northern Burkina Faso in a new attack by suspected militants, local sources told the AFP news agency.
The attack took place on Wednesday at Boala in the Centre-North region, two residents and a regional leader of the VDP volunteer force told AFP on Thursday.
"At least 10 volunteers were killed, and there were several wounded, who were taken to the medical centre in Boulsa," the main town in Namentenga province, one of the residents said.
The VDP official said "several terrorists were neutralised by volunteers after a two-hour-long fight."
A poor, landlocked country in the heart of the Sahel, Burkina Faso is battling a seven-year-old militant insurgency that swept in from neighbouring Mali.
Thousands of civilians and members of the security forces have died, and nearly two million people have fled their homes.
More than a third of the semi-desert country is in the control of the militants, and anger within the armed forces at military losses has spurred two coups this year.
The latest attack is the fourth in Burkina Faso since Sunday and brings the latest tally of deaths to at least 27.
On Sunday, six civilians, including four teachers, were killed by suspected militants at Bittou near the southeastern border with Ghana and Togo.
At least nine civilians were killed in the north on Monday and Tuesday in attacks on a village and a convoy of traders.
On November 26, four soldiers were killed by a bomb in the north, and three civilians were shot dead in the northeast.
The VDP — the Volunteers for the Defence of the Fatherland — is an auxiliary force that supports the poorly equipped army.
Set up in December 2019, it comprises civilian volunteers who are given two weeks of military training and then carry out surveillance, information-gathering or escort duties.
But hundreds of volunteers have died, especially in ambushes or explosions caused by improvised explosive devices planted along roadsides.
Despite the losses, 90,000 people signed up during a recruitment drive for the VDP in November, according to the authorities.