Burkina Faso's Army Executed More Than 200 Civilians: Human Rights Group - Latest Global News

Burkina Faso’s Army Executed More Than 200 Civilians: Human Rights Group

Human Rights Watch accuses the military of conducting campaigns against civilians accused of links to armed groups.

Burkina Faso’s armed forces “summarily executed” 223 civilians, including at least 56 children, in two villages in February, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The mass killings took place on February 25 in the northern villages of Nondin and Soro, said the report published on Thursday.

The international human rights group said the massacre appeared to be part of a large-scale military campaign against civilians accused of collaborating with armed groups.

Soldiers killed at least 44 people, including 20 children, in Nondin and 179 people, including 36 children, in nearby Soro.

HRW said it interviewed dozens of witnesses between February and March and analyzed videos and photos shared by survivors. The organization also reportedly obtained lists of victims’ names compiled by survivors and located eight mass graves using satellite images from March 15.

On February 24 and 25, armed groups carried out attacks across the country on military targets, including barracks and bases, as well as on civilian infrastructure such as religious sites, killing scores of civilians, soldiers and militia members.

While Defense Minister Mahamoudou Sana denounced “simultaneous and coordinated” attacks, he did not mention the mass killings of civilians in Nondin and Soro.

Civilians have been caught up in fighting and displaced between armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) and security forces.

About half of the country is outside government control. The violence has killed nearly 20,000 people and displaced more than two million.

The West African country is ruled by a military government led by Captain Ibrahim Traore, who seized power in a coup in September 2022, eight months after an earlier military coup toppled democratically elected President Roch Marc Kabore.

Traore has focused on retaking areas controlled by armed groups, but the military has been criticized by international human rights groups for cracking down on free speech and intimidating critics as it struggles to contain a security crisis.

Location of the villages of Soro and Nondin, Burkina Faso [Al Jazeera]

Nondin and Soro are believed to be among the many villages in Burkina Faso’s Thiou district that have been under siege by the al-Qaeda affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), the report said.

“The massacres in the villages of Nondin and Soro are just the latest mass killings of civilians by the Burkina Faso military as part of its counterinsurgency operations,” said Tirana Hassan, executive director of HRW.

“The Burkinabe authorities’ repeated failure to prevent and investigate such atrocities underscores why international assistance is critical to a credible investigation into possible crimes against humanity,” Hassan said as HRW called on the United Nations and African Union to an investigation to assist Burkinabe authorities.

Frustrated by the lack of progress over the years of Western military aid, military rulers have severed military ties with former colonial ruler France and turned to Russia for security assistance.

The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on leaders of groups accused of taking hostages in West Africa, including Americans. Among them are two JNIM leaders in Mali and Burkina Faso.

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