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ConflictsBurkina Faso

Burkina Faso dismisses HRW massacre report as 'baseless'

April 28, 2024

Human Rights Watch had accused Burkina Faso's military of civilian mass killings, including scores of children, in the West African country's fight against Islamist militant groups.

File picture two soldiers standing in a church in Burkina Faso
The West African nation has been embroiled in unprecedented violence linked to al-Qaeda and the so-called 'Islamic State' since 2016Image: Sophie Garcia/AP/picture alliance

Burkina Faso's military junta announced late on Saturday that an investigation was opened into the alleged killing of at least 223 villagers in February.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) had accused the military of carrying out mass killings in the villages of Nondin and Soro in the Northern Yatenga province.

The human rights watchdog said that 56 children were killed in the attacks in the report published Thursday, which cited eyewitnesses, civil society and others.

"The government of Burkina Faso strongly rejects and condemns such baseless accusations," Communications Minister Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo said in a statement.

"The killings at Nodin and Soro led to the opening of a legal inquiry," he said.

HRW says Burkina Faso 'mass killings' part of a large campaign

"These mass killings, among the worst army abuse in Burkina Faso since 2015, appear to be part of a widespread military campaign against civilians accused of collaborating with Islamist armed groups," HRW said. 

Witnesses and survivors of the killings, which reportedly took place on February 25, told HRW that the killings appeared to come in response to an Islamist strike on a military base near Ouahigouya, just 25 kilometers (15 miles) away.

A similar army massacre raid was carried out in another village on November 5, in which at least 70 people were killed, among them babies, after the army accused the villagers of collaborating with militants, the Associated Press news agency reported, citing verified accounts.

Burkina Faso suspends more international outlets

The junta announced late Sunday that it was suspending international news media outlets, including Deutsche Welle, for reporting on the HRW report.

French newspaper Le Monde and broadcaster TV5 Monde, as well as British daily The Guardian, were among those banned.

On Thursday, the junta suspended both the BBC and Voice of America.

Thousands killed in militant attacks

Mass executions in the West African state began escalating amid jihadi violence linked to al-Qaeda and the so-called "Islamic State" group almost a decade ago, sweeping in from neighboring Mali in 2015.

More than 20,000 people have been killed since then, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a United States-based nonprofit group.

These killings are believed to often occur during raids that the military says are part of counterterrorism operations.

rm, kb/fb (Reuters, AFP)