A group of gunmen attacked a Turkish restaurant in the centre of Burkina Faso, leaving at least 18 dead and 20 others injured. Picture: Xinhua/Remi Zoeringre

Johannesburg - The United States Embassy in Burkina Faso has evacuated 124 Peace Corps volunteers from the West African country due to security concerns.
 
An embassy communique said the volunteers were already back in the US after the Peace Corps programme had closely monitored the security situation on the ground in Burkina Faso.
 
As soon as the safety situation improved, the volunteers would return, the communiqué added.
 
More than 2 075 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Burkina Faso since the programme was established in 1966.
 
Without stating which security concerns the embassy was concerned over, there has been increasing attention focused on Islamic extremists who have launched an increasing number of attacks in the region.
 
Nineteen people were killed in August following an attack on a Turkish restaurant in Burkina Faso.
 
During the August attack at the Aziz Istanbul cafe at least at least eight foreigners and seven locals were killed after the gunmen, thought to be jihadists, fired on customers on the terrace before making their way inside. 

Two attackers were killed in a siege which lasted into the morning.

Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré condemned the "cowardly terror attack", adding that his people would never give in to terrorism.
 
Only days later three soldiers were killed in the restive north by an extremist group called Ansarul Islam which has repeatedly targeted security forces and civilians.

Another jihadist attack on a nearby cafe in January 2016 killed 30 people and more than 170 people were taken hostage.

The Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group said it had carried out that attack.

The attacks were not unexpected as the Sahel region, a 3 860-km arc-like land mass lying to the immediate south of the Sahara Desert and stretching east-west across the breadth of the African continent, has become increasingly volatile.

Over the last month residents in the Burkina Faso capital, Ougadougou, have reported noticing a stronger police presence, including more road blocks.

In neighbouring central Mali, the UN mission, MINUSMA, ordered staff and contractors to avoid using rural roads.

In the past two years northern Mali has faced challenges from extremists as attacks by Al-Qaeda affiliates have also targeted Niger and the Ivory Coast.

Due to the growing security issues a regional anti-terror force, the G5 Sahel, was established and recently deployed, drawing recruits from the armies of Mauritania, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.