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

Burkina Faso's government was overthrown by the military junta, which promised to take care of the perilous security situation of the country. Despite that, the West African nation continues to grapple with Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and displaced millions.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso Published on: November 14, 2023 10:56 IST
Burkina Faso's military junta took control after a coup in
Image Source : AP Burkina Faso's military junta took control after a coup in 2022.

At least 70 people, comprising mostly children and elderly citizens, were killed by unidentified attackers in a village massacre in Burkina Faso earlier this month that still remains under investigation, authorities said on Monday. Prosecutor Simon B Gnanou said the attack took place in the village of Zaongo on November 6.

“At the current stage of our findings and the testimonies collected, the perpetrators of these atrocities remain unknown for the moment,” Gnanou said in a news release. The horrifying attacks come as the West African country struggles with Islamist insurgency connected to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) for years.

On Sunday, the European Union placed the death toll from the village massacre at nearly 100. "Around 100 civilians, including women and children, were believed killed in a massacre," BBC quoted EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. The attack was also condemned by the United States, which along with the EU called on Burkina Faso's military junta to “shed light on the circumstances” behind the massacre.

However, Gnanou said that investigators were meeting with families of the victims and expected to then update the provisional death toll of 70 people. It took two days for local law enforcement to alert others of the attack and four more days before a team of investigators could reach the scene where they found dozens of homes burned, he said.

“In these painful circumstances, my prosecution presents its most saddened condolences to the grieving families and its wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured,” Gnanou said, adding that an attack on the convoy of investigators also had to be repelled.

Islamist groups in military-controlled Burkina Faso

Notably, Burkina Faso is currently under military rule after a junta staged a coup in July 2022. Since the military takeover, the junta has prioritized security but has struggled to control Islamist groups, who have killed thousands of people and left over 2 million civilians internally displaced.

In April, at least 136 people, including babies, were killed in a similar onslaught on a village in the same region by armed men in military uniform. Authorities condemned the attack and opened an investigation. Prior to that in the same month, 44 people were killed in separate attacks on villages, CNN reported.

Moreover, the junta led by Captain Ibrahim Traore, has been accused by rights groups of committing abuses against civilians and cracking down on civil liberties in the name of securing the country.

In its attempt to stem the threat by insurgent groups, the government has enlisted tens of thousands of volunteer fighters, but civilians say the volunteers indiscriminately kill people suspected of working with the Islamist groups. Many communities say they are more afraid of the volunteers than the extremists.

Last year was the country's most deadly on record, according to the US-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (Acled), with more than 1,400 civilian deaths. So far this year, almost 8,000 people have been reported killed due to violence in the country, Acled says.

(with AP inputs)

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