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ConflictsBurkina Faso

Burkina Faso: Army accused of executing civilians, babies

April 25, 2024

Soldiers in Burkina Faso killed 223 people, including children, in two villages, Human Rights Watch has said. The rights group said it was among the worst crimes committed by the military in nearly a decade.

Soldiers escort a military convoy down a road in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso soldiers reportedly killed at least 223 civilians, among them 56 children, in two villages in FebruaryImage: Vincent Bado/REUTERS

At least 223 civilians, among them 56 children, were executed by the Burkina Faso soldiers in two villages on February 25, 2024, international rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a reporton Thursday.

The HRW report documented accounts from 23 people, including 14 who witnessed the killings and verified the videos and photos of the aftermath of the atrocity provided by survivors.

The massacres were reported to be the worst military abuses in the West African nation in nearly a decade, and seem to be part of an extensive campaign against civilians accused of cooperating with Islamist militants, HRW said.

Killings in Nondin and Soro villages are 'crimes against humanity'

Tirana Hassan, the executive director of HRW, condemned the failure of the Burkinabe authorities to prevent and investigate the cases. She said the lack of consequences from the local authorities "underlines why international assistance is critical to support a credible investigation into possible crimes against humanity."

Burkina Faso's military killed 44 people, including 20 children, in the village of Nondin and 179 people, including 36 children, in the nearby village of Soro, HRW's report said, adding that people in the villages were accused of cooperating with militants. 

These are not the first such crimes. 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 being accused by the army of collaborating with militants, the Associated Press news agency reported citing verified accounts.

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Witnesses and survivors of the attack 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.

No comment from Burkinabe junta on executions

A representative of the Burkina Faso government did not comment on the attack on the villages on February 25. The government has previously denied any civilian killings and insisted that jihadi fighters often disguise themselves as soldiers.

The country has witnessed two coups in 2022.

Mass executions in Burkina Faso began escalating amid jihadi violence linked to al-Qaeda and the "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 mass killings are seen as part of the army's harsh response to insurgent attacks that it often calls part of counterterrorism operations.

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ac/sms (HRW, AP, EPD)