Avocet's convoy in Burkina Faso strikes landmine, killing two

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Two paramilitary police officers were killed and two others wounded in Burkina Faso when a convoy carrying fuel to the Inata gold mine hit a landmine, Avocet Mining Plc and the government said on Wednesday.

Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the incident although security analysts have attributed other recent attacks in gold-rich northern Burkina Faso to a new local jihadist group known as Ansaroul Islam.

“The explosion destroyed the leading vehicle, killing two gendarmes and seriously wounding two others,” the defense ministry said in a statement.

The explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device on the road from the town of Djibo, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of the capital Ouagadougou, it added.

The mining firm said it would review security measures and take measures to ensure the safety of the mine and its employees.

Burkina Faso, like other countries in West Africa, has been targeted sporadically by jihadist groups, including one founded by a local radical preacher, Ibrahim Dicko, who was released from prison in Mali in 2015. Most attacks have been along its remote northern border with Mali, which has seen activity by Islamist militants for more than a decade.

A security source said that short bursts of gunfire rang out briefly overnight near the Inata mine as an anti-terror unit of the paramilitary police pursued the suspected attackers.

Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 18 people and wounded several during a raid on a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital in August.

Shares in Avocet closed down 4.9 percent after initially falling some 10 percent on the London stock exchange.

Avocet had said earlier this month that its unit, Societe des Mines de Belahouro (SMB), which operates the Inata gold mine, may file for insolvency after a loan repayment freeze with its creditors expired.

The company owns 90 percent of the Inata Gold Mine that produced 72,485 ounces of gold in 2016.

Avocet is struggling to keep the mine operating after former workers seized a shipment of gold last year. Its shares have dropped nearly 60 percent this year.

Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga; Additional reporting by Emma Farge in Dakar and Sanjeeban Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Gareth Jones