The death toll from a weekend attack by suspected jihadists on a gendarmerie in northern Burkina Faso has risen to 53, the government said Wednesday.
The attack was one of the deadliest to hit the West African country's defense and security forces since jihadist violence erupted six years ago.
Gunmen traveling on pickup trucks and motorcycles attacked the Inata gendarmerie near the Malian border before dawn on Sunday, leading to drawn-out clashes, a security source on the same day said.
On Monday the death toll was reported as 32. Government spokesman Ousseni Tamboura said Wednesday that a total of 53 people were killed, 49 gendarmes and four civilians.
"Fortunately, we have found 46 gendarmes" alive, he said after a Cabinet meeting.
Local sources, however, said that around 150 gendarmes were stationed at the facility in Inata, meaning the toll could yet rise further. Hundreds of people protested in several cities across the country on Tuesday to demand resignations over the "inability to stop the terrorist attacks."
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore on Wednesday criticized "substantial dysfunction" within the army, including in food provision.
"It's unacceptable, and that's why I really do understand the ... angry reactions," he said as he left the Cabinet meeting.
Tamboura said earlier that the head of the armed forces in the north of the country had been removed from his post following Sunday's attack.
The country has been declared in mourning from Tuesday until Thursday. Burkina Faso has been hit by jihadist attacks since 2015, mostly in the northern and eastern regions close to Mali and Niger — countries facing their own struggles against jihadists.
Jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso, often coupled with ambushes and attributed to movements affiliated to the Islamic State group and al-Qaida, have killed more than 2,000 people and forced more than 1.4 million to flee their homes.