HRW Says Burkina Faso Army Strikes Killed Dozens Of Civilians

In this File Photo, Burkina Faso soldiers are seen deployed in Ouagadougou on September 30, 2022. Photo by Olympia DE MAISMONT / AFP)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the Burkina Faso army on Thursday of murdering at least 60 people in drone attacks that the government said were targeting Islamist insurgents.

Since August, three military drone attacks have killed people, two at crowded markets and one at a funeral, according to a rights group report.

Captain Ibrahim Traore, the military leader who took power following a 2022 coup, has prioritized a robust security response to attacks by Al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates.

HRW stated that it interviewed dozens of witnesses between September and November and examined 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 strikes carried out by drones “violated laws-of-war prohibitions against attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and military targets and were apparent war crimes,” according to the report.

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

RTB aired footage of a guided munition impacting hundreds of people and animals in a glade.

Local residents told HRW that 28 persons were killed and many more were injured in a crowded market.

They further stated that the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) controlled Bouro and the neighboring villages.

Three survivors reported four motorcycles driven by “jihadis,” or Islamist fighters, entered the market during the strike, when hundreds of civilians were there.

‘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 Islamist 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 jihadists 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”.

Written by PH

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