At least 37 people have been killed and 60 wounded in an attack on a mining company convoy in Burkina Faso, authorities say.
Quebec-based gold miner Semafo said five of its buses with a military escort came under fire on the road leading to its Boungou mine in the eastern region of Est, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Boungou, on Wednesday.
The military vehicle ahead was reported to have struck an explosive device. But two security sources said dozens may still be unaccounted for.
Burkina Faso's government said the gunmen had conducted a "complex attack", adding that defence and security forces had launched a relief operation and were searching the area.
Although the mining company issued a statement in which they stated that both the Boungou mine sites operated by them were secure and the mining operations had not been affected. Later past year, five members of Burkina Faso's security forces were killed in an attack near the Boungou mine.
The company blamed "armed bandits" for last year's attacks, and subsequently reinforced its armed escorts.
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The violence underscores the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Burkina Faso, which has been infiltrated by jihadists who have been active for years in neighboring Mali.
The attacks - typically hit-and-run raids on villages, road mines and suicide bombings - have claimed almost 700 lives across the country since early 2015, according to an AFP toll.
Increased bloodshed has forced hundreds-of-thousands of people to flee their homes, igniting a fast-growing humanitarian crisis.
Wednesday's attack was the worst since groups with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda began targeting the landlocked nation with high-profile attacks in January 2016.
The country's badly equipped, poorly trained and underfunded security forces have been unable to stem the violence, which has intensified throughout 2019 to become nearly daily. The Boungou mine has since been suspended, with all employees being transported to Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou via helicopter.