In a report published on Thursday, January 25, the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the Burkina Faso army of killing at least 60 civilians in drone strikes that the government said targeted jihadist fighters. “Three drone strikes by the Burkinabe army that the government claims hit jihadist fighters have caused the deaths of at least 60 civilians in two markets and during a funeral since August 2023,” She said.
HRW says it interviewed dozens of witnesses between September and November 2023 and analyzed photos, videos and satellite images for this investigation. “The Burkinabe army used one of the most precise weapons in its arsenal to attack large groups of people, resulting in the deaths of numerous civilians,” Ilaria Allegrozzi, Sahel researcher at HRW, said in this report.
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According to HRW, the attacks were carried out using Bayraktar TB2 drones, which were made in Turkey and could carry up to four laser-guided bombs.
“They were traders, civilians, not fighters”
The human rights NGO says it has received from survivors a list of seven people aged 20 to 40 who were killed and five injured in the market in the village of Boulikessi (North) on November 18, and who appeared on national television was presented as a “logistical base” for jihadists.
“They were traders, civilians, not fighters,” said a 69-year-old man who lost two sons, ages 20 and 40, in the attack. On September 21, a drone strike in Bidi (North) reportedly hit a tent where about a hundred people had gathered for a funeral, killing twenty-four people. “I saw a lot of bodies scattered on the ground, some of them torn to pieces… body parts, like organs, it was terrible,” said a witness interviewed by HRW.
The report also claims that residents are sometimes forced to work with the jihadists who control these areas. A resident of the village of Bouro (north), where 28 men were killed on August 3, asserts that the place “is considered by the government as a jihadist zone.” We are even afraid to go to the hospital and say we were injured by a drone.”
Since coming to power in a coup in 2022, Captain Ibrahim Traoré's regime has pursued a very offensive strategy against jihadist groups, which various NGOs and human rights defenders accuse of causing numerous civilian casualties. Images of drone strikes against suspected jihadist fighters are regularly broadcast on national television.
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