By Michel Biem Tong, Ouagadougou – Burkina Faso, Tuesday, January 8, 2020.
The Human Rights Watch said Monday, January 6, 2020, armed Islamist groups in the West African country of Burkina Faso have committed targeted attacks and summary executions that have killed over 250 civilians since April 2019.
The international non-governmental organization, headquartered in New York City, that conducts research and advocacy on human rights quoted witnesses saying that assailants sought to justify killings by linking victims to the government, the West, or Christian beliefs. A surge in attacks in recent months have caused hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes, it added.
According to the report, the armed Islamist groups responsible for the attacks began operating in neighboring Mali and from 2016 spread into Burkina Faso. Initially concentrated in Burkina Faso’s northern Sahel region, the attacks have steadily spread to the Nord, Centre-Nord, Boucle du Mouhoun, and Est regions, said Human Rights Watch.
HRW also said the groups have concentrated recruitment efforts on the nomadic Peuhl, or Fulani, by exploiting community grievances over poverty and public sector corruption. This has inflamed tensions with other largely agrarian communities, notably the Foulse, Mossi, Songhai, and Gourmantche, who have been the victims of most attacks.
According to Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch, “Armed Islamist groups in Burkina Faso have attacked civilians with unmitigated cruelty and utter disregard for human life,” The Director furthers that they “Deliberately targeting farmers, worshippers, mine workers, displaced people, and traders are war crimes.”
Human Rights Watch also said it interviewed 54 victims and witnesses of abuses in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, in November and by telephone in December 2019. The attacks documented took place between April and December 2019, Human Rights Watch said, adding it previously conducted research into abuses by armed Islamist groups and government security forces in Burkina Faso.
According to a summary of the Human Rights Watch investigation made public on January 6, 2020, on its website and which National Telegraph consulted, more than 250 civilians were killed in Burkina Faso by jihadists between April and December 2019.
To arrive at this report, as National Telegraph red in the summary, Human Rights Watch interviewed 54 witnesses, the majority of whom were on-site in Ouagadougou in November 2019 and on the phone in December 2019.
“Since April 2019, Human Rights Watch has documented 256 murders of civilians in 20 attacks perpetrated by allied groups of Al-Qaida including the local armed group Ansaroul Islam, and the Islamic State in the Grand Sahara (EIGS)”, we read in the report.
Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch said: “The victims were killed in markets and in villages, at places of worship, churches or mosques, and while they were transporting food aid to displacement camps. Many more were killed during ambushes, including 39 mine workers, in November. Armed Islamist groups rarely claim responsibility for the attacks”
Regarding the situation, Human Right Watch warns jihadist groups that: “The laws of war prohibit attacks on civilians and summary executions, torture, cruel treatment, sexual violence, and looting. Serious violations of these laws committed by individuals with criminal intent are war crimes. “