Burkina Faso soldiers may have massacred 223 civilians in one day, Rights body claims


BURKINA FASO – Burkina Faso’s military summarily executed 223 civilians, including at least 56 children, in a single day in late February, it has been alleged.

This is according to an investigation into one of the allegedly worst abuses by the country’s armed forces for years.

The mass killings had been linked to a widening military campaign to tackle jihadist violence and happened weeks after Russian troops landed in the west African country to help improve security, according to a report by the Guardian.

The massacre may amount to crimes against humanity, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), which urged Burkinabè authorities to launch an urgent UN-backed investigation.

Collating witness testimony and allegedly verifying videos and photographs, HRW researchers found that on February 25, soldiers killed 179 people, including 36 children, in Soro village and 44 people, including 20 children, in nearby Nondin village, in northern Yatenga province.

The findings came days after United Nations officials and African leaders met in Nigeria to discuss solutions to counter the growing threat of terrorism on the continent, a conference that officials from Burkina Faso did not attend.

Experts noted that the killings occurred while US counter-terrorism strategy in the region was faltering, as the country increasingly pivoted towards Russia for its security strategy.

Burkina Faso’s military backed president, Ibrahim Traoré, hoped the alignment with Moscow would reshape the country’s near decade-long conflict with insurgents linked to Islamic State and al-Qaida.

A month before the killings, the first significant deployment of Russian troops arrived in the country, though there was no suggestion they were involved in the massacre.

Witnesses said it was beyond doubt that the atrocities were part of a long-running counter-terrorism campaign targeting civilians accused of collaborating with Islamist militants.

“The Burkinabè army has repeatedly committed mass atrocities against civilians in the name of fighting terrorism, with almost no one held to account,” said Tirana Hassan, Executive Director of HRW.

“Victims, survivors and their families are entitled to see those responsible for grave abuses brought to justice.”

Villagers said that on February 25, military forces stopped in Nondin and then Soro, 5km away, and accused residents of being complicit with the jihadists.

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