Suspected jihadists have massacred at least 160 civilians, including around 20 children, in Burkina Faso’s volatile north in the deadliest attacks since Islamist violence erupted in the west African country in 2015, officials said on Sunday. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore denounced an attack near the borders with Mali and Niger, where jihadists linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State have been targeting civilians and soldiers. In Solhan, local sources said they have recovered a total of 160 bodies from three mass graves. “It’s the local people themselves who have started exhuming the bodies and burying them after transporting them,” one local source said. “We must remain united and solid against these obscurantist forces,” Kabore said, condemning the massacre in the village of Solhan as “barbaric” and “despicable.” The assailants struck around 2am (local time) against a position of the Volunteers for the Defence of the Motherland (VDP), an anti-jihadist civilian defence force which backs the national army, before attacking homes and carrying out “executions,” a local source said. European journalists ‘executed by terrorists’ in Burkina Faso ambush The VDP was set up in December 2019 to help Burkina’s poorly-equipped military fight jihadists but it has suffered more than 200 fatalities, according to an AFP tally. The volunteers are given two weeks’ military training, and then work alongside the security forces, typically carrying out surveillance, information-gathering or escort duties. “In addition to the heavy human toll, the worst recorded to date, homes and the market were set on fire,” another security source said, voicing concern that the “still temporary toll of a hundred dead may increase.” The authorities have declared three days of national mourning, ending Monday night at 11.59pm. Suspected jihadists kill dozens in Burkina Faso Sohlan, a small community around 15 kilometres from Sebba, the main city in Yagha province near the border with Mali, has been hit with numerous attacks in recent years. On May 14, Defence Minister Cheriff Sy and military top brass visited Sebba to assure people that life had returned to normal, following a number of military operations. The massive attack by suspected jihadists came hours after another ambush on Friday evening on Tadaryat village in the same region, where at least 14 people were killed. Meanwhile, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres’ spokesman said that he was “outraged” over the massacre. Guterres “strongly condemns the heinous attack and underscores the urgent need for the international community to redouble support to member states in the fight against violent extremism and its unacceptable human toll,” Stephane Dujarric said in a statement. Since 2015 Burkina Faso has struggled to fight back against increasingly frequent and deadly jihadist attacks from groups including the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS). The attacks first started in the north near the Mali border, but have since spread to other regions, particularly in the east. Around 1,300 people have died and more than a million have fled their homes.