OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Suspected Islamic extremists ambushed a convoy in northern Burkina Faso on Wednesday, killing at least 30 civilians along with 17 soldiers and volunteer defense fighters, the government said.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in Burkina Faso's Sahel region, militants linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group are increasingly targeting security forces in the West African country.

One recent attack elsewhere in the north killed 30 people including 15 soldiers and four volunteer fighters. And about a week ago, suspected extremists ambushed a group of soldiers in western Burkina Faso, killing 12 of them.

The militants have demonstrated their ability to attack civilians even under military escort, said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Moroccan based organization focused on economics and policy.

“This shows the level of information they have on the locations of security forces and transit routes they are going to use,” Lyammouri said.

Extremist violence and the military’s response already have killed thousands and displaced some 1.3 million people. Locals say they’re scared the uptick in violence will continue spreading.

“The populations of Gorgadji and Arbinda are shocked and concerned about the escalation of terrorist (attacks) against civilians in the region,” Ibrahim Kagone, a local journalist in the nearby town of Dori, told the AP by phone.

The ill-equipped and undertrained army has been struggling to stem the violence and the deteriorating security is prompting unrest across the country. Widespread protests last month demanding the government take stronger action, prompted President Roch Marc Christian Kabore to fire his ministers of defense and security and appoint himself minister of defense.

But the opposition says the government’s reshuffling isn’t enough.

“I am very sad to see that in a week there are so many deaths (and) military equipment destroyed,” said Eddie Komboigo, head of the political opposition. “Now, despite the government reorganization, I am convinced that President Roch Marc Christian Kabore has no strategy or solution to terrorism.”

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Mednick reported from Toronto.