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Burkina Faso Military massacres over 223 civilians, including babies in a hasty raid on two villages

Burkina Faso- a once-peaceful nation has been ravaged by violence that has pitted jihadis linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group against state-backed forces. Both sides have targeted civilians caught in the middle of the brutal war-like situation.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso Published on: April 25, 2024 12:23 IST
A poster of Burkina Faso Military
Image Source : AP A poster of the Burkina Faso Military

Military forces in Burkina Faso killed 223 civilians, including babies and many children, in attacks on two villages accused of cooperating with militants, Human Rights Watch said in a report published on Thursday. The mass killings took place on February 25 in the country's northern villages of Nondin and Soro, and some 56 children were among the dead, according to the report. The human rights organisation called on the United Nations and the African Union to provide investigators and to support local efforts to bring those responsible to justice.

“The massacres in Nondin and Soro villages are just the latest mass killings of civilians by the Burkina Faso military in their counterinsurgency operations,” Human Rights Watch Executive Director Tirana Hassan said in a statement. “International assistance is critical to support a credible investigation into possible crimes against humanity.”

How did violence take over Burkina Faso

The once-peaceful nation has been ravaged by violence that has pitted jihadis linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group against state-backed forces. Both sides have targeted civilians caught in the middle, displacing more than 2 million people, of which over half are children. Most attacks go unpunished and unreported in a nation run by a repressive leadership that silences perceived dissidents.

The HRW report provided a rare firsthand account of the killings by survivors amid a stark increase in civilian casualties by Burkina Faso's security forces as the junta struggles to beat back a growing jihadi insurgency and attacks residents under the guise of counterterrorism.

Earlier in April, news agency AP verified accounts of a November 5 army attack on another village that killed at least 70 people. The details were similar — the army blamed the villagers for cooperating with militants and massacred them, even babies.

Death toll could go higher 

Witnesses and survivors told HRW that the February 25 killings were believed to have been carried out in retaliation for an attack by Islamist fighters on a military camp near the provincial capital Ouahigouya, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) away.

The toll of civilian deaths was higher than first described by local officials. A public prosecutor previously said that his office was investigating the reported deaths of 170 people in attacks carried out on those villages.

Officials previously denied killing civilians 

Officials previously denied killing civilians and said jihadi fighters often disguise themselves as soldiers. More than 20,000 people have been killed in Burkina Faso since jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group first hit the West African nation nine years ago, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a United States-based nonprofit.

Burkina Faso experienced two coups in 2022. Since seizing power in September 2022, the junta led by Capt. Ibrahim Traoré has promised to beat back militants but violence has only worsened, analysts say. Around half of Burkina Faso's territory remains outside of government control. Frustrated with a lack of progress over years of Western military assistance, the junta has severed military ties with former colonial ruler France and turned to Russia instead for security support.

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: Burkina Faso: 70 killed, mostly children and elderly, in village massacre amid Islamist insurgency

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