Gunmen killed nine people when they opened fire on a bus in a northern Ghana district struggling with ethnic tensions and concerns over Islamist violence from across the border in Burkina Faso, a local official said Friday.
The attack on Thursday morning targeted a bus carrying mostly women on their way to a local market and escorted by police, because of the tensions, in Pusiga district near the volatile Bawku area of Ghana's Upper East Region, AFP reports.
Pusiga district chief Zubeiru Abdulai, a local mayor, told AFP that the nine victims died from gunshot wounds when their bus was ambushed near a remote forest close to the border with both Burkina Faso and Togo.
"The vehicle was occupied by mostly women and was being escorted by the police due to the volatile situation in Bawku," he said.
"The police are investigating the incident now and it will be difficult for me to establish the main reason behind the attack."
Police did not immediately respond to calls seeking more details on the attack.
Upper East Region has struggled with a decades-long conflict between ethnic Kusasi and Mamprusi communities over the right to chose a new chieftain and over land rights in the mostly Muslim Bawku region, where there is a heavy police and army presence.
Those tensions often flare into violence.
Jihadist violence in Burkina Faso has also forced people to flee across the frontier into Ghana.
Earlier this year, Ghana sent 1,000 more troops and police to Bawku to reinforce security after gunmen killed an immigration officer and wounded two more. Officials did not blame any group for that attack.
Ghana's northern frontier is also an area with well-established smuggling routes, porous borders and illegal gold mining -- a combination local officials and experts worry could benefit jihadists.
With Islamist militants controlling large parts of Burkina Faso over the border, Western partners are looking to help Ghana and coastal West African neighbours Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast strengthen their defences to prevent jihadist attacks.
Ghana has so far been spared any direct violence blamed on jihadists, but Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast have all suffered Islamist militant attacks near their northern borders.
Ghana is also pushing the so-called Accra Initiative to bolster security cooperation and intelligence sharing among Gulf of Guinea neighbours and Sahel countries.
The recent French troop withdrawal from Mali in the face of mounting hostility and disputes with the ruling junta there has refocused Western partners to look how to aid Gulf of Guinea nations battle the Sahel war's southward spillover.