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UPDATE 5-Spain confirms two journalists killed after Burkina Faso ambush

Reuters logo Reuters 4/27/2021 By Thiam Ndiaga

(Adds police comment, U.N. aid agencies statement, latest from Ireland)

By Thiam Ndiaga

OUAGADOUGOU, April 27 (Reuters) - Two Spanish journalists were killed after an armed ambush on an anti-poaching patrol near a nature reserve in eastern Burkina Faso, Spain's prime minister said on Tuesday.

An Irish national also died, three senior Burkina Faso security sources said.

The three foreigners and a member of the Burkinabe armed forces went missing on Monday after a morning attack on a convoy of security forces, forest rangers and expatriates, according to the Burkinabe government.

It has not yet confirmed the deaths, saying photos of bodies circulating on social networks had not been formally identified as being theirs.

However, Spain's prime minister said two journalists filming a documentary there had been killed. "The worst of news is confirmed," Pedro Sanchez said on Twitter.


Video: Bodies of Europeans killed in Burkina Faso arrive in Spain (AFP)

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Ireland's foreign ministry said on Tuesday it had been in contact with the family of the Irish citizen as well as with EU and Spanish colleagues. "The situation is complex and officials are working with relevant actors on the ground," it said, without commenting further.

The three senior Burkina Faso security sources with direct knowledge of the matter requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack on a road leading to the vast forested reserve of Pama. The government said it had not identified the assailants, whom it described as "terrorists."

Abundant vegetation and the poor condition of the backcountry roads in the area would have made it easy for the assailants to take the convoy by surprise, said Burkinabe police superintendent and security expert Rachid Palenfo.

"It happened where the road is deteriorated, it means that you can't drive fast," he told Reuters.

The unit that was ambushed was part of a new joint army, police and forestry unit that had just gone through six months of training and was starting operations in conservation areas around Pama on the border with Benin and Togo.

Burkina Faso, like much of West Africa's Sahel region, faces a deepening security crisis as groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State carry out attacks on the army and civilians, despite help from French and U.N. forces.

Insurgents are believed to be holding a number of foreign hostages in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

The worsening violence has led to one of the world's most acute humanitarian crises, U.N. agencies warned on Tuesday. It said 29 million Sahelians - an all-time high - were in need of aid and protection, 5 million more than last year. (Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga; Additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin, Isla Binnie, Inti Landauro and Belen Carreno in Madrid and David Lewis in Nairobi; Writing by Bate Felix and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Kim Coghill, Catherine Evans, Mark Heinrich and Alison Williams)

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