A Burkina Faso rights group on Thursday accused the military of carrying out the “summary execution” of at least 60 people in an anti-jihadist operation last month.
On February 5, the army said it had “neutralised 146 terrorists” following a jihadist attack had killed 14 civilians near the country’s northern border with Mali.
But an investigation by the Burkinabe Movement for the Rights of Man and the People (MBDHP) found no evidence of any fighting in the area.
“We were able to confirm on the ground that there were cases of summary executions of at least 60 people out of the 146,” MBDHP’s president Chrysogone Zougmore told a press conference.
Most of the fatalities were from the nomadic Fulani herding community, the group said, citing relatives and locals it had interviewed.
The military had said its raids were conducted in northern areas of Kain, Banh and Bomboro, but Zougmore said they found no evidence of any fighting there.
“We were told there was fighting which led to the neutralisation of 146 people. We searched the combat zones, and found no sign of this.
“On the other hand, we picked up an enormous quantity of shell casings near the homes of the people who were killed,” he said.
“Clearly… these people were, in fact, executed.”
Such “summary and extra-judicial executions” were “extremely serious”, he said.
The NGO also questioned the military’s original motive for the operation — the purported deaths of 14 civilians in the district of Kain, in Yatenta province.
“We approached the people in those areas, and they said that… nobody in their area had been killed” on the dates cited by the army, said Zougmore.
Contacted by AFP, a government spokesman said Ouagadougou “noted” the allegations but had no immediate reason to question the “version of the facts” given by the military in May.
Military judicial investigators have opened an inquiry into the incident as has the justice ministry.
State of emergency
The allegations followed a Human Rights Watch last year, which said the armed forces had carried out extrajudicial killings during anti-terror operations in 2017 and 2018.
Jihadist violence first emerged in northern Burkina Faso in March 2015 and has since spread to the east, leaving more than 300 people dead.
The capital Ouagadougou has been hit three times in attacks that have killed nearly 60 people. The latest attack in March 2018 targeted the army headquarters in the city centre.
Since January 1, a state of emergency has been in force in 14 of the country’s 45 provinces — which has granted the security forces enhanced powers to search homes at any time of the day or night.
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