Burkina Rights Groups Say Troops Killed Over 40 Civilians

Two local rights groups on Sunday accused Burkina Faso soldiers of massacring more than 40 villagers in the country’s deeply troubled north.

The Burkinabe government denied the claims.

The landlocked Sahel state is in the grip of a seven-year-old insurgency that has claimed more than 2,000 lives and forced some 1.9 million people to leave their homes.

The insurgency has been concentrated in the north and east, led by assailants suspected to have links with Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group, but other regions have not been spared.

The Collective Against Immunity and Stigmatisation of Communities (CISC) said the incident took place early this month in the village of Taffogo in Tougouri, citing several eyewitness accounts.

“There were many cases of kidnapping followed by summary executions,” it said.

“In all, more than 40 corpses were discovered on the road between Taffogo and Bouroum,” it said. “All the people had their hands tied and were blindfolded.”

It said the attackers were members of the military “dressed in black clothes and hooded.”

The Observatory of Human Dignity said “more than 50 unarmed civilians” were kidnapped on the road to Bouroum by soldiers.

“Nearly all the victims were Fulani, including women and children,” referring to a mainly Muslim ethnic group of semi-nomadic herders spread across West Africa.

But government spokesman Lionel Bilgo said “the government rejects and condemns in the strongest terms these allegations that bring discredit to the army which remains… firmly committed to the fight against terrorism and guaranteeing the peace and security of people”.

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He told AFP the army had launched an investigation into the claims.

“If, however, they are true, the army… will draw all the consequences,” said Bilgo, who is also national education minister.

The Burkinabe army has previously denied similar accusations, saying the perpetrators were armed groups using military material.

The state does not have control over more than 40 percent of Burkina’s territory, according to official data.

The Observatory said government troops had “resumed the anti-terrorist fight by simply exterminating villages occupied by a certain community.”