Displaced people, who fled from attacks of armed militants in Roffenega, are engulfed in dust as they sit at the camp built by the German Ngo HELP in Pissila (photo credit: REUTERS)

A group of “armed terrorists” entered Pansi in Yagha province and “attacked the peaceful local population, after having identified them and separated them from non-residents”, Col Salfo Kaboré said.

The incident took place on Sunday during a weekly service, security officials said. “The provisional toll is 24 killed, including the pastor … 18 wounded and individuals who were kidnapped,” Kaboré added.

A resident of the nearby town of Sebba said Pansi villagers had fled there for safety.

Burkina Faso is on the frontline of a jihadist insurgency advancing in the Sahel. Since 2015, about 750 people have been killed and about 600,000 people have been forced from their homes.

A government soldier on patrol in Dori next to refugees who had fled from attacks in northern Burkina Faso

Christians have become frequent targets in the north of the country.

On 10 February, suspected jihadists in Sebba seized seven people at the home of a pastor. Five bodies were found three days later, including that of the pastor, according to the local governor.

According to UN figures, nearly 4,000 people were killed in jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso and neighbouring Mali and Niger last year.