Burkina Faso Rejects HRW’s Report That Soldiers Massacred 223 Villagers

0
319

Burkina Faso has rejected the “baseless accusations” that soldiers massacred 223 people in attacks in February.

A Human Rights Watch report alleged that the army killed 179 people in Soro village and 44 others in Nondin, at least 56 of whom were children, on 25 February.

The NGO said this was “among the worst army abuse” incidents in the country in nearly a decade.

Burkinabè authorities said they had opened a legal inquiry to “establish the facts” and condemned HRW’s report.

“The government of Burkina Faso strongly rejects and condemns such baseless accusations,” communications minister Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo said in a statement late on Saturday.

The minister also expressed his surprise that “while this inquiry is underway to establish the facts and identify the authors, HRW has been able, with boundless imagination, to identify ‘the guilty’ and pronounce its verdict”.

Earlier this week, officials in the military-ruled country suspended the BBC and US public broadcaster Voice of America over their coverage of the HRW report.

In a statement released on Thursday, HRW said the alleged mass killings “appear to be part of a widespread military campaign against civilians accused of collaborating with Islamist armed groups, and may amount to crimes against humanity”.

Villagers who survived the attack told HRW that a military convoy of more than 100 soldiers descended on Nondin village, about 30 minutes after Islamist fighters passed nearby.

The soldiers went door-to-door, ejecting residents from their homes.

“They then rounded up villagers in groups before opening fire on them,” the report added, citing witness and survivor accounts.

The soldiers arrived in Soro, about 5km (3 miles) away, an hour later, also gathering and shooting at villagers, the survivors added.