170 people ‘executed’ in Burkina Faso attacks

Around 170 people were reportedly “executed” in attacks on three villages in northern Burkina Faso a week ago, according to a regional prosecutor. The violence occurred as jihadist activity intensifies in the country, which is currently under military rule. On the same day, separate attacks on a mosque in eastern Burkina Faso and a Catholic church in the north resulted in additional casualties.

Aly Benjamin Coulibaly, the regional prosecutor, received reports of the attacks on the villages of Komsilga, Nodin, and Soroe in Yatenga province, with a provisional toll of approximately 170 people executed. Survivors indicated that women and young children were among the victims. The attacks are distinct from other incidents on the same day at a mosque in Natiaboani and a church in Essakane. The official death toll for those attacks has not been released, but at least 15 civilians were reported killed in Essakane, according to a senior church official.

Burkina Faso has been grappling with a jihadist insurgency linked to groups affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State, originating from neighboring Mali in 2015. The violence has resulted in nearly 20,000 deaths and displaced over 2 million people in Burkina Faso, a Sahel region country plagued by instability.

The state’s inability to address insecurity has fueled public discontent and played a significant role in two military coups in 2022. President Ibrahim Traoré, the current leader, has prioritized efforts to combat rebel groups. In response to the recent wave of attacks, the army and the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP), a civilian force supporting the military, launched operations that reportedly neutralized several hundred terrorists.

Security Minister Mahamadou Sana described the attacks as “coordinated,” attributing the change in the enemy’s tactical approach to the destruction of terrorist bases, training camps, and actions targeting the enemy’s financing and supply corridors.

Burkina Faso has witnessed attacks on mosques and imams in the past, often attributed to jihadists. Churches have also been targeted, and Christians have been kidnapped. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project reported 439 people killed in violence in Burkina Faso in January alone.

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