Burkina Faso army strikes killed dozens of civilians: HRW

Published: Updated:
Read Mode
100% Font Size
3 min read

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday accused the Burkina Faso army of killing at least 60 civilians in drone strikes which the government said targeted extremist fighters.

The deaths occurred in three military drone strikes since August, two at crowded markets and another at a funeral, the rights group said in a report.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Military leader Captain Ibrahim Traore, who came to power after a 2022 coup, has focused on a strong security response to attacks by groups affiliated to al-Qaeda and ISIS.

HRW said it had interviewed dozens of witnesses between September and November and analyzed photographs, videos and satellite images.

“The Burkina Faso military used one of the most accurate weapons in its arsenal to attack large groups of people, causing the loss of numerous civilian lives in violation of the laws of war,” the New York-based group said in its report.

The drone strikes “violated laws-of-war prohibitions against attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and military targets and were apparent war crimes,” it added.

On August 3, Burkina’s government-run RTB television channel reported a “successful” air operation against a group of extermist fighters in the northern town of Bouro.

RTB showed a video of a guided munition striking dozens of people and animals in a glade.

Local residents told HRW that 28 men were killed and many wounded in a packed market.

They added that the al-Qaeda-affiliated Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) controlled Bouro and surrounding areas.

Three survivors said four motorbikes ridden by “jihadis,” or extremist fighters, entered the market at the moment of the strike, when hundreds of civilians were present.

‘Traders, civilians, not fighters’

On November 18, a military drone hit another crowded market, across the border in Mali, near the town of Boulkessi, according to the report.

It said at least seven men were killed and at least five others injured.

An RTB reporter described the target as a “logistics base” for extremist fighters.

But a 69-year-old man, who lost two sons aged 20 and 40 in the strike, told HRW: “My sons had gone to the market to sell their products. They were traders, civilians, not fighters.”

Three days later, in the northern Burkinabe town of Bidi, a drone strike reportedly hit a tent where around a hundred people had gathered for a funeral, killing 24 men and a boy.

“I saw many bodies on the ground, scattered, some torn into pieces... parts of bodies, like organs. It was horrible,” a 54-year-old farmer said.

In its report, HRW says that local residents are sometimes forced to collaborate with the terrorists who control the areas.

Survivors of the three strikes described horrific scenes.

“The bodies were blackened and charred,” a 42-year-old survivor of the Bidi attack said.

Human Rights Watch said in the report that the Burkina government should “urgently and impartially investigate these apparent war crimes, hold those responsible to account, and provide adequate support for the victims and their families.”

With AFP

Read more:

Blinken seeks broader approach in fight against extremism in West Africa

Tuareg separatists reject ‘inter-Malian’ peace dialogue

Conflict, coups rising at alarming rate across Africa: International Rescue Committee

Top Content Trending