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Burkina Faso soldiers massacred over 200 civilians in a day, Human Rights Watch says

Burkina Faso soldiers massacred over 200 civilians in a day, Human Rights Watch says
Burkina Faso government soldiers take cover as they patrol a suburb taking control from the   -  
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Theo Renaut/AP

Burkina Faso

Human Rights Watch has documented a staggering toll of civilian deaths in a single day in Burkina Faso this year. According to their investigation, more than 220 civilians, among them at least 56 children, fell victim to atrocities allegedly committed by the country's military.

The events unfolded on February 25th, with the village of Soro bearing witness to the loss of 179 lives, while 44 others perished in the neighbouring village of Nondin. Human Rights Watch has labelled these mass killings as some of the most egregious abuses by the army in nearly ten years.

While the report has shed light on these horrific acts, Burkina Faso authorities have remained silent on the matter. However, public prosecutor Aly Benjamin Coulibaly has made a public appeal for witnesses to come forward and assist in identifying those responsible for the massacre, initially estimating the death toll at 170.

Eyewitness testimonies provided a chilling account of the military's assault. Survivors recounted how a convoy of over 100 soldiers descended upon Nondin village shortly after Islamist fighters had passed through the area. The soldiers systematically forced villagers from their homes, gathered them in groups, and mercilessly opened fire, leaving no one spared, even those attempting to seek refuge.

The brutality extended to Soro village, located just 5 kilometers away, where the military repeated their deadly actions, shooting indiscriminately at villagers and those attempting to flee.

The military has justified these heinous acts as retaliation against villagers accused of aiding Islamist fighters, following an attack on a nearby military camp by insurgent forces in the northern Yatenga province.

Tirana Hassan, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, condemned the massacres, citing them as the latest in a series of civilian atrocities committed by the Burkina Faso military in their counterinsurgency efforts.

Burkina Faso, governed by a military junta since a coup in 2022, had promised to quell the insurgency. However, the violence has persisted, with jihadist groups now controlling over a third of the country.

International entities, including the European Union and the United Nations, have accused Burkina Faso of grave human rights violations in its fight against insurgency, citing indiscriminate killings and forced disappearances of civilians as among the atrocities committed.

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